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NICK 1 

HILIP GIBB' 





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■ 1 



BEAUTY AND NICK 



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She stood quite silent for a moment, staring at Nick. 



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BEAUTY AND NICK 

Jl NOVEL OF THE STAGE AND THE 

HOME-^THE ARTISTIC TEMPER. 

AMENT IN FATEFUL ACTION 



BY 

PHILIP GIBBS 

AUTHOR OF ••NOW IT CAN BE TOLD/' '•PEOPLE 
OF DESTINY.'*THE EIGKTH YEAR. ' ETC 




NEW YCMUC 
THE DEVIN-ADAIR COMPANY 

1921 



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CoPTUGHTy I9I49 *▼ 

THE DEVIN-ADAIR COMPANY 



All rights reserved by 
The DetHHr-Adair Co, 



Third Printing 



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^ 



CONTENTS 
PART I 

PAOS 

I QiSAT Discoveries 7 

II The Coming of the Beast .... 27 

III The Girl of the Ground-Floor Flat 49 

IV The House of the Beast .... 70 

V Beauty Goes Away 96 

PART II 

I The Cottage by the Sea .... 125 

II The Admiral and the Lonely Lady . 152 

III The Young Lady with Long Legs . 191 

IV The Father of the Man .... 226 

PART III 

I Nicholas in London . • • . . 261 

II The Unknown Mother .... 282 

III The Choice • . 310 

rV The Wonderful Lady 334 

V The Rod of Fate ...... 359 

VI The Plot of Life 384 

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PART I 



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CHAPTER I 
GREAT DISCOVERIES 

Nicholas Barton was bom with a queer tem- 
perament. He was one of those who think 
a great deal but say very little. He was a dreamer, 
something, perhaps, of a poet At least beneath all 
his quietude and reserve there was a great well of 
emotion, with deep waters which threatened to rise 
and overwhelm him when they were stirred by kind- 
ness or unkindness, by queer unexpected beauties 
of sound or color or scent, or by some keen, sharp 
touch from one of those mysterious fingers of fate 
which sometimes come out of the darkness to pluck 
at human heart strings. 

He was conscious of great mysteries about him. 
Sometimes he walked a little way toward them, with 
peering eyes, with a wild beating of the heart, with 
an adventurous fear, like a primitive creature in a 
great forest. Then, panic-stricken, he would hurry 
back to his familiar work, saying nothing of his 
venture, or of the things he had seen. 

He was very watchful, and, as it were, always on 
his guard, as though encompassed by hidden perils. 
Because it seemed to him that at any moment the 
vast powers about him might change the familiar 

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into the unfamiliar, the known into the unknown. 
And it was of the unknown that he was afraid, 
though he was tempted to explore it. 

Yet he was not a coward, nor weak-willed, nor of 
morbid moods. There were times when he showed 
extraordinary courage, facing great dangers with a 
quiet and noble resolution. His strength of will 
amounted at times to a stubborn obstinacy when not 
all the great powers about him, not Bristles nor 
Beauty nor Polly — not even the Beast — could make 
him budge an inch if he did not want to budge. As 
for being morbid, I think Nicholas Barton's history 
will prove the falsity of such a charge. He was a 
dreamer, and he liked loneliness, and he indulged 
in queer, fantastic, and, sometimes, preposterous 
imaginations, but his dreams were such as come to 
people who are sensitive to the beauty and wonder of 
life, and in his loneliness he was cheerful, and busy 
with brain and hands. His chief desire was to get 
at the truth of things, and that kept him busy. Be- 
cause in spite of his insatiable curiosity, his intense 
inquisitiveness, his probings and searchings, the 
truth of things was always difficult to grasp. Truth 
was always playing a game of hide-and-seek, like 
God, like the squirrel (whom he loved better than 
God), like Bristles when he said "Let's be bears!" 
— ^and disappeared under the table-cloth. 

Yet it was this desire for truth, this questioning 
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of his soul, the big, eternal queries in his eyes, which 
gave to Nicholas Barton his peculiar power, and 
made people a little frightened of him. Even before 
he had uttered his first word in the world, when he 
lay dimib and watchful in a wheeled carriage, Bris- 
tles had been scared by his son's eyes. 

"He seems to look into one's bones," said Bristles. 
"I believe he knows what an awful rotter I am." 

"He frightens me sometimes with the enormous 
gravity in those blue eyes of his," said Beauty. "I 
am sure he knows when I lose my temper with you." 

"You shouldn't lose your temper with me," said 
Bristles. "You know how much I love you." 

"That is why," said Beauty. "If y^u had a little 
bit of the bully in you I should be as meek as a 
lamb. I think every woman should marry a bully." 

"Hush!" said Bristles. "The kid is listening." 

"How absurd of you! As if he could under- 
stand!" said Beauty. 

And yet she had a quaint idea that Nicholas Bar- 
ton, her son, had listened and understood. For his 
blue eyes were fixed upon her with his great desire 
for truth. He had that grave stare, before which, 
a few years later in his life, his mother drooped her 
eyelashes so as to hide her soul. 

That was when he was eight years old, and after 
the Beast had come. 

During those eight years of life he had been mak- 
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ing many strange discoveries about the world in 
which he lived. He discovered that he was not 
the only kid in the world, but that there were 
thousands of kids, each of them belonging to a 
Bristles and a Beauty, and living in the square 
holes behind the big walls which hid them from 
him after they had run away from the shadows 
which crept across the grass and stole down from 
the tree-trunks and whispered together in dark 
corners, just about the time when the lamps became 
alive. That discovery came to him gradually. It 
must have been when he was four years old that 
the tremendous fact of other kids, more than ever 
he could count by using his ten fingers over and over 
again, burst upon him like a thimder clap. It made 
him feel rather miserable at first, because, as he 
told Polly, it made him feel frightfully little. Of 
course Polly could not understand — she never could 
— and he did not take the trouble to explain to her. 
It was about this time that he made the discovery 
that the world was ever so much bigger than the 
biggest thing he could think of. It was bigger, even, 
than Battersea Park. Polly said it was a million 
times bigger than Battersea Park, but then she 
could not tell him what a million was. After count- 
ing up to twenty she said it was ever so much more, 
but she couldn't be bothered. That made him feel 
frightfully little, too, and he was glad to get back 
home, where sizes were more convenient, and where 

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he felt bigger, although he had to climb almost as 
high as the sky — ^he never could count the number 
of steps exactly right each time — before he reached 
his front door, and although the grandfather's clock 
in the hall was an enormous giant with a great 
cavern inside his stomach. But here, once past the 
grandfather's clock, he was safe — safe from the 
thought of bigness which frightened him. His own 
room was full of little things, a chair in which he 
could sit without dangling his legs, a bed in which 
he could lie without wondering whether he would 
ever find his way out again, and a chest of drawers 
which he could overlook if he stood on a hassock. 
That was where most of his friends lived — ^most of 
them like the British Army, and the Golliwog, and 
the Lady Without-a-head, and the Crab which 
wouldn't walk, lived in a crowded-up way in a cup- 
board which sometimes he didn't dare to open in 
the dark because the Golliwog seemed to blink its 
eyes, rather nastily, and because Something might 
jump out. But other friends lived in different parts 
of the room. Peter Rabbit always lived on the 
mantelpiece, next to Jemmy, the Dog-with-one-ear, 
and not far away from Bill, the Cat Without-a- 
tail. The Wheelbarrow lived under the washstand, 
with its ears sticking out The Red Engine lived 
in the hearth-place, ready to steam away on far 
journeys with him as soon as he fell asleep. 

In the dining-room his best friends were the Lions 
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with rings through their noses on the sideboard — 
they were laughing lions, though he had never found 
out the joke — and the hassock on the hearth-rug, 
which was a fat, comfortable old fellow who didn't 
mind b^ing kicked, and the arm-chair where Bristles 
sat when he smoked his pipe, which always held 
out its arms as though longing to embrace some- 
body. At the back of the arm-chair were two but- 
tons like eyes, which winked and blinked in the 
firelight, so that Nicholas Barton used to turn round 
to see if they were looking when he stole across 
the room to peep inside the sideboard cupboard, or 
when he went to the window to see if the lamps had 
come to life after the shadow-people had come into 
the street. Here in the dining-room also lived the 
magic carpet, where a great forest grew, full of 
flowers and creeping plants, in which Nicholas 
Barton used to wander on g^eat adventures, until 
sometimes he was so tired that he fell asleep. 

With these friends, and many others in the kitchen 
and the bedrooms — such as Mr. Big Kettle, Mr. 
Rolling Pin, and the magic clothes-horse, which 
could be changed into a giant's castle, a railway sta- 
tion, or a butcher's shop, Nicholas was more intimate 
and unreserved than with the people who did not 
understand them. He often whispered things to 
Peter Rabbit, or into one of the hassock's ears, 
which he would not have told to Bristles or Beauty, 
or even to Polly, because he understood them, and 

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they understood him. They never laughed at him 
when he made one of his big discoveries. They 
never told him to do things which he didn't want 
to do, and they never surprised him by doing the 
most unexpected things when he wasn't ready for 
them. Besides, their whole life was lived inside 
the flat, so that he knew all about them, whereas 
Bristles and Beauty were always going away myste- 
riously and leading a secret life of which he had 
no knowledge or share. 

Although he was always watching these two 
people he could never be quite sure of them, or make 
out the mystery of them. Bristles was a man of 
queer habits and queer character. He was pretty 
good at fairy tales in the early morning after Nick 
had come in from his own room to snuggle into 
Bristles' bed and pinch his nose, but presently, just 
at the exciting point where the Small Boy was 
knocking at the door of the Giant's Castle, or when 
he had been wisked up to the stars on a witch's 
broom-stick, Bristles would give a great yawn — so 
that Nick would feel as if he might tumble to the 
very bottom of Red Lane — ^and calmly go to sleep 
again. If Nick ventured to pinch his nose once more 
— ^which was not always a safe thing to do — and 
if he went on with the story, it was just as likely 
as not he would muddle the whole thing up and 
change the Small Boy into a Fairy Princess, or 
the witch into an ugly dragon with fiery nostrils. 

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He was a most forgetful man, and made Nick be- 
lieve that all men had this habit of forgetfulness, so 
that he was terrified lest the same thing might creep 
upon him as he grew older and older every time the 
clock ticked. Bristles would begin a game of bears 
under the table-cloth, and behave very well' for a 
little while, but then suddenly he would forget, and 
instead of growling like a bear would begin to roar 
like a lion, or gnmt like a pig, or crow like a 
cock-a-doodle-doo. Or if he pretended to be a 
railway train on the way to, the North Pole, his 
forgetfulness would come on suddenly and. he would 
change into a fire-en^ne, so that the ^Yhole game 
went astray, in spite of Nick's angry shouts. 

He was a weak fellow, too, was Bristles. Some- 
times he would pretend to get very angry, and 
threaten to give Nick a jolly good hiding, but Nick 
pooh-poohed his threats, knowing the falsity of them. 
Once, when Nick called Beauty a dirty toad, a 
beastly wretch, and a nasty damn thing — all names 
learned from Polly in her moments of excitement — 
Bristles was ordered by Beauty herself to take him 
into the bedroom and thrash him severely. For a 
long time Bristles refused, pleading that Nick did 
not mean what he said and that he was too young 
to be thrashed, and that, after all, boys will be boys. 
Both people had red faces — Beauty was like a flam- 
ing poppy — ^and spoke in loud voices, while Nick 

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looked from one to the other with grave, observant 
eyes. 

"Good heavens ! the boy will go to the bad if he 
is not beaten sometimes," cried Beauty. "Surely 
you are not going to let him see that you are afraid 
of punishing him, are you?" 

At the end of the argument. Bristles took Nick by 
the hand and led him to the bedroom, and carefully 
closed the door. 

"Look here, Nick, old boy," said Bristles, "I 
have got to beat you. So take it like a man." 

Nick gave a piercing howl before a finger had 
been laid upon him, and made a frightful noise, 
while Bristies became very pale, and then thrust 
a penny into his hand and said: 

"I'm sorry, old man. Stop crying, and tell Beauty 
you didn't mean what you said." 

Some time after Bristles and Nick strolled back 
into the drawing-room. Bristles was whistling in 
a careless way, while Nick, clasping his penny, was 
wondering why Bristles always whistled when he 
tried to hide anjrthing from Beauty. 

"I hope you gave it to him hot and strong," said 
Beauty. "I never heard such language from a 
child." 

Bristles nodded, and said, "He won't speak like 
that again." 

Beauty drew Nick close to her, and whispered 
into his ear: 

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"Bristles didn't want to hurt you, Nick, but you 
must be punished when you do bad things/' 

Nick gazed into Beauty's eyes, in his grave, 
thoughtful way. 

"Bristles didn't hurt me. He didn't touch me. 
And I don't see why I should be punished when I 
do bad things, Nobody ever punished you." 

"What?" cried Beauty, looking at Bristles with 
eyes like glowing fires. "You didn't touch him, 
after all? Oh, you blithering idiot!" 

She was furiously angry, and Bristles said 
"Damn" and then was very quiet while he filled 
and smoked his pipe. And from that day Nick had 
no fear of Bristles, and knew him to be a weak-willed 
fellow. But they were good friends, for Bristles 
was, on the whole, obedient, and understood things, 
and was not so grown-up in his mind as most 
people who have lost belief in magic carpets, and 
chairs with blinking eyes, and old lions with rings 
through their noses, who laugh and laugh at some 
joke which they never tell. 

Yet even with Bristles one could not feel quite 
safe. Nick knew that between this man and Beauty 
there were secrets which they hid from him. He 
heard them quarreling sometimes after he had gone 
to bed. At least, it was generally Beauty who quar- 
reled, in a rather shrill, high voice, like the top notes 
in the piano, while Bristles only grunted, or rumbled 
in the bass notes. Having been away all day, he 

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would come home sometimes looking sulky (as Polly 
would say when Nick put on the same look), and 
instead of playing games, would say, "I don't feel 
like it to-night, old man," and sit staring into the 
fire — though he never could see the same pictures 
there which Nick saw — ^and giving every now and 
then a big sigh, and then getting up quite suddenly, 
to pace up and down the room just like a lion at 
the Zoo, with the same worried look in his eyes. 

Beauty was hardly ever at home in the evenings, 
and perhaps that accounted for the sulkiness of 
Bristles. Nick believed that must be the reason, for 
he asked one day: 

"Why do you play at lions all by yourself?" 

"Because I am as lonely as an old lion in a cage," 
said Bristles. 

"Why are you as lonely as an old lion in a cage?'* 
asked Nick. 

"Because Beauty, my lady lioness, goes to play 
with monkeys," said Bristles. 

After that he burst out laughing, and said: 
"After all, I am not quite lonely. Let you and I 
play at bears." 

But Nick wondered within himself why did 
Beauty go and play with monkeys. Or, if she was 
so fond of monkeys, why didn't she take Bristles to 
join in the game? 

It was only very rarely that Bristles went. When 
he did, he put on black clothes and a waistcoat with 

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a big hole in the middle of it, so that a stiff white 
shirt showed through, and a hat that folded in and 
out with a cliclc But it didn't agree with him. 
Nick always knew that he would be sulky next morn- 
ing after he had been to see Beauty play with the 
monkeys. 

Perhaps it was because he could not lie in bed 
so long as Beauty. He was always up to break- 
fast with Nick, while Beauty lay in bed until lunch 
time, so that Nick had to go on tip-toe past her 
door, lest he should get *'What for/' as Polly said. 

That was one of the differences between Beauty 
and Bristles, though it did not explain all the mys- 
tery of thenL There were other differences. 
Bristles was out all day, and Beauty was out all 
night — or, at least, so far into the night that Nick 
was never awake when she came back. Bristles 
dressed himself, just like he had taught Nick to 
dress himself, but Beauty always wanted Polly to 
help her, and Polly was always in a bad hiunor 
during dressing-time, and said "Drat the woman!" 
when Beauty called for hot water, and "Lord Al- 
mighty!" when she called for a clean chemise, and 
"Oh, what a Kfe!" when Beauty sat back in a 
blue dressing-gown while Polly did her hair, and 
while Nick sat on a small stool in a room Uttered 
with clothes about the floor, with newspapers, sup- 
per things, cigarette-ends, and paper-backed novels 
;vith lovely ladies on the covers. 
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But none of these picture ladies were quite as 
lovely as Beauty. It was quite a long time before 
Nick made that discovery. He made it one morn- 
ing when Polly was doing Beauty's hair. It was 
long golden hair, which shone and sparkled in the 
stmlight which came through the window. It seemed 
to Nick that it flowed down from Beauty's head 
like a river of gold which he had once seen in a 
waking dream. And as she sat smiling at her own 
image in the glass, while she smoked a gold-tipped 
cigarette, it seemed to Nick that her face was like 
one of the dream princesses whom he had once mar- 
ried in a great castle when Peter Rabbit had gone 
on a big adventure with him. Only Beauty was 
not quite the same as the dream princess, because 
she had blue eyes instead of green, and because her 
smile showed a row of teeth like little white birds 
in a nest of rose-leaves. 

"Why are you so lovely, Beatity?^ asked Nick. 

"Bless the boy !'' said Beauty, laughing. "I sup- 
pose God made me so." 

"But why did God make Folly so ugly and you so 
lovely?" 

It was Polly's turn to laugh. 

"Lor', ma'am, what do you say to that?" 

"Perhaps because God made Polly so good, and 
me so wicked," said Beauty, who seemed to find a 
great joke in Nick's most serious questioning. 

"That's no reason at all," said Nick. "It would 
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have been more sensible if God had made both of 
you lovely and both of you good." 

Polly laughed so much that she dropped all 
Beauty's hair-pins, which Nick picked up one by 
one, wishing to goodness that grown-up people did 
not laugh at the wrong places. But Beauty did not 
laugh this time. She put her head down a little 
and said: 

"I wish God could have managed that, little Nick. 
It would have been so much better for me. It would 
save me such a lot of worry." 

Nick came to the conclusion that God, whom he 
imagined to be a very big and superior kind of 
policeman with white gloves and enormous brass 
buttons, always watching people from mysterious 
hiding-places, had had a quarrel with Beauty, and 
wanted to prosecute her for not keeping off the 
grass. The idea rather frightened him, because he 
was afraid that she might be taken away one day, 
by a sudden pounce. 

He was often rather frightened about Beauty, be- 
cause she had rather alarming ways. For one thing, 
she was always in a great hurry, except in getting 
out of bed. She would hurry over her meals, and 
keep calling out to Polly to hurry up, and then whisk 
away in a hansom cab, like Cinderella in the fairy 
coach. Sometimes she came home rather breath- 
lessly, and told Bristles or Polly that she had just 
flown in for a few minutes and must fly oflF again 
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as soon as possible. Nicholas had believed at first 
that she really possessed the power of flying, but 
when he saw with his own eyes that she generally 
drove up in a cab, he considered that she was not 
quite truthful — which was a shock to him. 

Another of her alarming ways was the habit of 
talking to herself — laughing to herself, and crying 
to herself in the dining-room when the door was 
shut. Nick often held his breath and listened to 
Beauty's voice speaking inside the room, saying the 
same things over and over again. Once he heard 
her laughing quite loudly, not once, but many times, 
and he believed she must have found out the joke 
at which the lions on the sideboard were always 
smiling. He wanted to ask her, but somehow the 
fact that she had shut him outside the door before 
she began to laugh to herself made him afraid. 

She frightened him also by getting angry quite 
quickly and suddenly, by slapping him on the hand 
so that it was as red as though it had been stung 
by a bee, and then kissing it and crying out that 
she didn't mean to hurt her darling Nick and that 
she was a wretch to lose her temper. Once she lost 
her temper so badly — it was about something that 
Bristles said — that she look a vase off the mantel- 
piece and let it drop onto the fireplace, so that it 
smashed into a hundred pieces, which Polly had to 
clear away with a dustpan and broom. Nick felt 
his heart going tick-tock like the big dock in the 

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hall, and his eyes growing larger and larger until 
they seemed as big as his head. There was a 
dead silence for a moment after that awful crash. 
Then Bristles shrugged his shoulders up to his ears 
— Nick learned the trick from him — and went out of 
the room whistling a tune. Beauty put her hands 
to her face, and tear-water oozed through her fingers, 
and her body shook like a tree in Battersea Park 
when the wind blows. It was the sight of Beauty's 
shaking body which made Nick suddenly rush to 
her, clutching at her skirts with a great howl of 
grief. Then, to his surprise. Beauty took her hands 
away from her face, and burst out laughing, 
although her eyes were all moist and shining. 

"If you ever break a vase like that," she said, "FU 
skin you alive, Nick." 

"Why did you break it?" asked Nick. 

"Because I had a monkey on my back," said 
Beauty. "Such an evil little monkey." 

Nick walked round and looked at his mother's 
back. 

"I think you tell most frightful whoppers," he 
said. 

And yet he knew that better than an3rthing in the 
world to him was Beauty on her good days. That 
was when she was not in a hurry for once, but curled 
up on the hearth-rug with him, telling him queer 
little fairy-tales, better than any that Bristles could 
tell, because all her people seemed alive and spoke in 

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different voices, so that it really seemed as if they 
were in the room; and when she came and knelt 
down by the side of his bed with her arms clasped 
about him, letting him ask all the questions he 
wanted to ask, and answering them in a voice which 
soimded like music in his ears when at last he could 
not keep his eyes open; and when she came to him 
in wonderful dresses, all white and shimmering, like 
a doud in the sky, and said : "Do you think I look 
pretty to-night, my Nick?" and bent to kiss him 
so that he could take deep breaths of the scent in 
her hair, like the smell of the flower-beds in the 
Park, and stroke her soft white arms, and whisper 
his love for her. Sometimes at these times there 
was an excited light in her eyes, so that they shone 
like the candles on each side of his mantelpiece, 
and sometimes she would swish up her skirts and 
dance about the room on the tips of her toes, and 
sometimes Bristles would come in and stand with 
his hands in his pockets staring at her with a queer 
smile, until she sank into a deep curtsey and into 
the waves of her white dress before him, when he 
would hold out his hand and raise her up, and kiss 
her on the arm as she danced out of the room. Those 
were scenes which Nick cherished in his heart, and 
which long afterward he remembered like wonder- 
ful dreams. 

It was in his sixth year that he made his greatest 
discovery about Beauty. 

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It was made in the kitchen, where he was build- 
ing a giant's castle out of a cardboard box, while 
Polly was ironing handkerchiefs, and spitting on the 
hot iron so that it made that splendid sizzling noise 
which Nick loved to hear. It was between one of 
the spits that she gave a great sigh and said : 

"The Lord be praised / ain't a hactress !" 

"What is a hactress?" asked Nick. 

"Your mother is a hactress, my poor poppet," 
said Polly. 

Nick was silent. It was clear to him from Polly's 
tone of voice that a hactress was a very awful and 
horrid thing. 

"Why shouldn't she be a hactress?" he said, put- 
ting himself on his guard. 

"It's what no good woman ought to be, in niy 
opinion," said Polly, dabbing down the iron with a 
bang. 

Nick had a great respect for Polly's wisdom. She 
could do many things which neither Bristles nor 
Beauty could do. She could bake bread and make 
suet puddings with plums in them, and sugar mice 
with currant eyes. She knew almost everything 
there was to be known about grown-up people, cats, 
babies, policemen, beetles, cutting out paper figures, 
folding paper boats, healing burns and blisters, get- 
ting good luck by putting on a stocking inside out, 
and other things worth knowing. But Nick was 

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not going to allow her to say bad things about 
Beauty. 

"If you say my mother is a hactress, I will kill 
you dead," he said. 

Polly did not see his white face or his burning 
eyes. She was busy with her iron. 

"Nothing I can say can alter things/' said Polly, 
breathing hard over her iron. "She's a hactress 
by nature, and a hactress by calling, and it*s no won- 
der your father is getting old before his time, poor 
dear." 

Nick took a careful aim with the pair of scissors 
with which he had been cutting out a giant's castle, 
and threw them straight at Polly's face. 

"Take that, and dammitall !" he shouted, and he 
was only a little bit sorry when Polly gave a loud 
shriek, dropped her iron, and put her hand up to a 
great gash in her cheek. 

Bristles came striding into the kitchen. 

"What on earth's the matter?" he asked, sternly. 

Polly was still screaming, and her face was dab- 
bled with blood. 

"She called Beauty a hactress," said Nick, "and 
I tried to kill her." 

That night he went supperless to bed, after beg- 
ging Polly's pardon and receiving her tearful kisses, 
which melted all the rage in his heart He cried 
himself to sleep, not because he had no supper, not 
because he had been forced to beg Polly's pardon 
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— which was frightftilly hurtful to his pride — but 
because Bristles had confirmed the awful fact that 
Beauty was a "hactress," and had said, beneath his 
breath but not so quietly that Nick had not heard 
the words: 

"And I wish to Gk>d she wasn't !" 

Nick had not the faintest idea what this awful 
thing might be, but he was sure that it was the 
worst thing that could have haK)ened to Beauty, 
and was a shameful secret which he must hide from 
all the world. 



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CHAPTER II 

THE COMING OF THE BEAST 

Nicholas Barton, when he became something of 
a scholar, divided the history of his world into 
certain definite stages: B. C. and A. D., before 
the Great Fire and after the Great Fire, before the 
coming of the Beast and after the coming of the 
Beast. 

It was before the Beast came that he was initiated 
into some of the mysteries of Beauty's life outside 
the flat, and into the meaning of that word "hac- 
tress'' which Polly had pronounced as a thing of- 
fensive to her nostrils. 

It was Bristles who gave him this wonderftd 
knowledge. 

"Look here, Nick, my son," he said on a certain 
historic evening, "would you like to come to the 
theatre and see Beauty in all her glory?" 

Nick was drawing pictures of Battersea Park. 
They were his private pictures which nobody could 
understand but himself. But there, clear enough to 
his eyes was the old tree with arms that tried to 
reach down to small boys but were not quite long 
enough, and the Squirrel which was always hiding 
in the back parlor of his cage, so that only one 

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bright eye looked out, and the twin old gentleman 
owls, and the one old lady owl, who were always 
taking afternoon naps, even in the morning, when 
the sun was shining, and there was the lake, with 
boats full of boys who were always shouting be- 
cause they had discovered a magic island where tof- 
fee and gingerbread nuts and striped bulls' eyes 
grew on the trees. All these things had Nick put 
down in pictures, but he had not yet drawn the 
noise of the shouting boys, nor the smell of the 
flowers which grew by the side of the lake, when 
Bristles asked him the big question. 

Nick bit the end of his pencil thoughtfully, and 
then said: 

"What is a theatre?*' 

"It is a place where people pretend to be other 
people, like you and I pretend to be bears. They 
get so much into the habit of pretending that half 
of them never get back again to their real selves." 

Nick stared at Bristles in alarm. 

"I should hate that. What does Beauty pretend 
to be?" 

"Well, to-night she is pretending to be a fairy 
princess in love with an ass. It's rather good fun, 
old man." 

"But ladies never do fall in love with asses, do 
they?" asked Nick. 

"Oh, often," said Bristles, who was putting on 
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his boots, the shiny ones in which Nick could see 
his own face. 

"It would be awkward if Beauty fell in love with 
an ass, wouldn't it?" said Nick. 

"Devilish awkward." 

Bristles gave a queer laugh, ending in a queer 
sigh, and Nick didn't like the look of things. It 
would be frightful if Beauty got so much into the 
habit of pretending that she couldn't get back again 
to her real self. 

But he accepted the invitation to the theatre be- 
cause of his desire for knowledge, and although he 
yawned once or twice because it was getting near 
bed-time, he told Bristles that he had sent the old 
dustman off with a flea in his ear. 

Polly was in a very bad temper when she helped 
him to dress in his best things. 

"Shameful, I call it, keeping a child out of his 
bed. And the theayter is no place for my poor 
innocent poppet. It all comes of having a hactress 
for a mother." 

It was the first time she had used the word since 
Nick's attack with the scissors, and, as she said 
afterward to the servant in the next flat, she could 
have bitten her tongue off for having mentioned it 
again. But Nick had made one of his great discov- 
eries. It came to him in a flash. 

"Is a hactress a lady that pretends to be what 
she isn't, and can't get back to her real self?" 
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"Lord save the child I And how did you know 
that ?" asked Polly, startled out of her wits by such 
precocious wisdom. 

Nick did not answer. So that was the meaning 
of the word! This new knowledge cast a gloom 
over his spirit. It hurt him to think that Beauty 
might have been pretending to him all the lime. 
Perhaps he had never known the true self of her. 
He must try to find it out. He would watch and 
try to catch her unawares, just as he had caught 
the Squirrel once when it thought that nobody was 
looking. It was quite a different squirrel to the 
one he had imagined when he had only seen its 
bright eye peeping out from the back parlor of its 
cage. 

On the journey to the theatre with Bristles in a 
hansom cab he sat very quiet, drinking in all the 
new impressions of this great adventure in the night. 
All the lamps were alive, thousands of them, like 
shining flowers that came dancing past the window 
of the cab. And all the buildings were like fairy 
palaces, so white in the glow of the night lights, 
so terribly black where the shadows made their hid- 
ing places. The world was full of music, full of 
little tinkling bells, like those on the cab horse, 
playing thousands of jig tunes, while lots of small 
boys, whom he could not see in the darkness, were 
blowing on whistles. All the world was going to 
the theatre in cabs and carriages, and the noise of 

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the wheels made a rushing sound like water turned 
on from bath-room taps. He stared out at shadow 
people passing along the streets. All their bodies 
were black, but their faces were white like ghosts, 
and they went by quietly, as though creeping on 
tip-toe. He looked up into the sky, and gave a little 
shiver of excitement, for there, so close above the 
cab in front of them that the driver could almost 
touch it with his whip, was the old man in the moon, 
smiling down as though seeing a great joke in the 
world, and not far away from him was a tiny star, 
winking its eye. 

"Bristles," said Nick, with a quiver in his voice, 
"why does the moon smile? Do you know the 
joke?'' 

"Yes," said Bristles, "but it is a bad joke. You 
are too young for me to tell you." 

"When shall I be old enough to know ?" 

Nick knew that there were son>e jokes for which 
he would have to wait, all those jokes at which 
grown-up people laugh, but which do not seem a 
bit funny to small boys. 

Bristles put his arm roimd Nick, and pressed him 
closer to his side. 

"When you are as old as I am, Nick. Everybody 
finds out the joke then, worse luck !" 

At the theatre Nick felt very small as, holding 
on hard to Bristles, he walked between some marble 
pillars into an enormous place crowded with men 
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BEAUTY AND NICK 

with holes in their waistcoats so that their shirts 
showed through, and with, women who had bare 
arms and necks, and dresses Hk6 the best flower beds 
in Battersea Park. Bristles passed through the 
crowd, nodding to one or two people, and saying 
good evening to a gentleman in a white wig, a 
purple coat and breeches, and white silk stockings, 
whom Nick knew, without being told, to be the 
owner o^ the theatre, and an immensely rich man. 
Then Bristles went down a long corridor where two 
or three women like Polly, only not so ugly, said 
"Good evening, sir," and grinned in an aggressive 
way at Nick, and finally opened a door which led 
into a little room where there was a big window 
without glass, with a balcony outside, looking into 
a vast hall full of velvet chairs and white faces and 
little twinkling lights. 

'Is this the theatre?'' asked Nick. 

"Yes. Take off your coat, and make yourself 
at home." 

"Where's Beauty?" asked Nick. 

"Oh, you will see her presently." 

Nick took off his coat, and Bristles hung it on 
to a peg absurdly high above a small boy's head. 
Then Nick drew up a chair to the open window, 
and tried to find Beauty. There were thousands 
of faces just like he sometimes saw them in dreams, 
high up and low down, all exactly the same, unless 
he stared at them hard and noticed the differences, 

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and all with shining eyes. He could not see Beauty 
among them, though he looked ever so hard. Down 
below in the great cavern of the hall was another 
crowd of people, but he could not see their faces so 
well, only their heads, and to his surprise he noticed 
that most of the men had taken their hair off, so 
that their naked heads looked like big birds* eggs. 
Then he saw a lot of wild people in a cage. Only 
one or two of them had taken their hair off. The 
others had long hair, like the manes of lions. 

"Are they savages?" he asked, and Bristles, fol- 
lowing the direction of his pointed finger, laughed 
a great deal, as though it was a joke, and said : 

"Well, they are rather fierce." 

But they seemed to be tamed by a man who sat 
in a high seat waving a stick at them. After three 
taps of his stick they took up queer-looking instru- 
ments, and played queer music which sounded at 
first like the roaring of wild beasts, and then changed 
and became very soft, like the singing of the birds 
in Battersea Park after the shadows had crept down 
from the trees, and then changed again, so that 
thousands of notes tripped over one another, like 
the leaves blown along a path on a gusty day, all 
singing as they scurried along. 

Presently, at the end of the great hall nearest 
to Nick, a curtain which everybody had been star- 
ing at, rolled up in an invisible way, and at the 
same time nearly all the lights in the great hall 
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suddenly died, so that the people's faces could only 
be seen through the black fog of darkness, more like 
a dream than ever, but here and there a light still re- 
mained alive, just like a watchful eye staring through 
the blackness. But now beneath the rolled-uji cur- 
tain there was a little world 'bf light, just like Bat- 
tersea Park on a summer day, only more real, 
because the fairies which Nick could only see in 
Battersea Park when he shut his eyes, were here 
frisking about among the trees, even when he kept 
his eyes open, and there was one of them called 
Puck whom he recognized at once as a fellow he 
had met in a fairy tale. He wore exactly the same 
grin, and made the same funny jokes which you 
could not quite understand, but laughed at all the 
same. 

"Why didn't you tell me the theatre was fairy- 
land?" said Nick, speaking to Bristles in a loud 
voice. 

"Hush !'' said Bristles, "you mustn't talk till the 
curtain goes down, old man." 

So Nick sat very mum, but a little later he nearly 
jumped out of his seat, for there, coming from 
behind a tree, was Beauty, his Beauty, dressed up 
like a fairy and followed by a lot of little fairies. 
He was so excited that he forgot all about not 
speaking, and leaning over the balcony, cried out 
in a high voice: 

"Hullo, Beauty!— Beautv!" 
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Bristles grabbed him by the waistcoat, and hauled 
him back into his chair, but not before Beauty had 
looked up and smiled at him, and not before there 
came a g^eat flutter of laughter from the darkness, 
as though a laughing wind had blown across all 
the whit« faces. 

For a long time Nick sat as quiet as a mouse, 
watching all the people of fairyland, who were do- 
ing queer things which he could not understand, 
and saying things which meant nothing to him, 
while he watched with grave eyes, and listened with 
straining ears. Then, presently, he felt himself get- 
ting very excited. Some big Fear was trying to get 
inside his head. It was when everybody was laugh- 
ing because a fat man like one of the gardeners in 
Battersea Park was being changed into an ass. 
Nick could not see anything to laugh at. It seemed 
to him very cruel to change a man into an ass. He 
began to hate Puck for playing such a trick. But 
that was not the reason why Fear was trying to 
get into his head. It was because of Beauty. It 
was because Beauty was falling in love with the ass. 
He wanted to warn her. It was frightfully danger- 
ous. She might never get back to be herself again. 
It was beastly to see the way she stroked the ass, 
and cuddled him, and kissed his ugly nose. Sup- 
posing she went on loving the ass? What would 
happen to Bristles and Polly and him? He could 
not bear it He felt that Something was going to 

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burst in his head, and that all the water in his 
heart was ready to rush out of his eyes. He sud- 
denly shouted out again : 

"Beauty, you mustn't love the ass ! Please don't 
love the ass!" 

Once again there came the noise of a laughing 
wind blowing gustily over the white faces. But 
Nick did not hear the wind. He was sobbing bit- 
terly against the white shirt through the hole in 
Bristles' waistcoat. Bristles kept on saying "Hush, 
old man," and carried him down the long corridor, 
and then went home again with him in a hansom cab. 
But long before they had reached Battersea Park 
Nick was asleep, with his head against the white 
shirt-front, which was all stained with his tears. 

Nick was never quite sure what things happened 
between this visit to the theatre and the coming of 
the Beast, because he could not keep count of the 
days, and things had a habit of getting muddled in 
his mind just like his toys got muddled in the cup- 
board — all heads and arms and legs mixed up to- 
gether — so that it was difficult to sort them out 
again. But some time passed, with its days of new 
discovery and its nights of new dreams, before that 
one day when he was called out of the kitchen to 
come and be polite in the drawing-room. 

He did not want to go in the very least, for he 
hated being polite, and he was quite happy in the 
kitchen with Polly, to whom he could talk just as 
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he liked, or with whom he could be silent when he 
liked, and who, at this time of his life, was his best 
and most faithful friend. For he had trained her 
up in the way she should go, and by this time she had 
learned that she was not to laugh at him when he 
made discoveries, and that she must not tell him 
wrong things when he asked straight questions, and 
that he was quite to be trusted in front of the 
kitchen fire, with the rolling pin, the flat iron (in 
its cold moods), the coffee grinder, the mangle, and 
other things which he preferred to his own toys 
because they were more real and more useful. When 
he was called from the kitchen on this day, he was 
just making a private loaf for himself out of a 
piece of dough left over from a rabbit pie, now bak- 
ing in the oven, and he had just stuck the top on 
with a French nail (because it would keep wobbling 
off). It was therefore most annoying that he should 
be summoned to make himself tidy and go to shake 
hands with a visitor. 

"It's absurd," said Nick, "I don't want tQ shake 
hands with the visitor, and I can't see why the visi- 
tor wants to shake hands with me." 

"Oh, there are lots of things you can't see just 
yet," said Polly. "Do as you're told, is the motto 
for small boys. Blest if it ain't the motto for grown- 
ups, too. I have to do as I'm jolly well told. Master 
Nick." 

"Yes, but you're a servant," said Nick. "You're 
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BEAUTY AND NICK 

paid for it. I don't see why I should do as I'm 
told without being paid for it." 

"You'll get paid if you don't, my, poppet !" said 
Polly, and Nick knew that she meant just the oppo- 
site, which was a way she had. 

So Nick rubbed the flour oflf his waistcoat with 
the kitchen table-cloth, squirted some water onto 
his hands from the tap in the sink, wiped them with 
a duster, smoothed down his hair with a boot-brush 
in the scullery — Polly was busy with a pudding — 
and presented himself in the drawing-room. That 
is to say, he opened the door very softly, got down 
. upon his hands and knees, and crept under the gate- 
legged table, from which hiding place he could 
reconnoitre the visitor before making himself polite. 

It was then for the first time that he saw the 
Beast. 

He called him that instantly, in his own head, be- 
cause there was something beast-like about the man 
who sat smiling at Beauty from the peacock arm- 
chair. He had a soft, pointed brown beard, and a 
fluffy brown mustache, which seemed very beastly to 
Nick, who was accustomed to men with bald faces, 
like Bristles, who cut the stubble off his chin every 
morning as soon as it began to sprout above the soil. 
He had brown eyes, which smiled and smiled, like 
a yellow tiger at the Zoo, and when he smiled and 
smiled he showed two rows of very sharp white 
teeth, just like the yellow tiger's teeth, though not 

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so big. And he wore a brown velvet coat, which, 
when Nick ever touched it, after this first meeting, 
made his blood run cold in a horrible way. He 
hated the Beast from the very first time he ever 
set eyes on him. 

"Nick, dearest/' said Beauty, "come and say how- 
do-you-do to Mr. Danvers." 

"I will say it here," said Nick, and from beneath 
the table he said, very politely, "How-do-you-do?" 

The Beast laughed. It was a quiet, oily laugh. 
But he spoke words which made Nick quite sure he 
hated him. 

"I am afraid you have spoiled the boy, Mrs. Bar- 
ton." 

"Nothing could spoil him," said Beauty, and then 
clapped her hands. "Come out from the table, 
Nick." 

But Nick did not budge. He made up his mind 
hpt to budge on any account for such a beastly kind 
of Beast. 

"Do you hear me, Nick?" 

But Nick put his fingers in his ears, so that he 
could not hear. 

It was then that something happened, something 
inconceivable to Nick. His leg was grasped as in a 
vice by a long white hand. An enormous force was 
tugging at him. Though he clutched at the carpet, 
the great force was stronger than all his strength 
and with a sudden jerk he was lifted right out from 

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BEAUTY AND NICK 

beneath the table, and set down on his legs in front 
of the smiling man with the soft brown beard. 

"Small boys must not disobey their lady 
mothers/' said the man, smiling so that he showed 
all his teeth again. "Now will you say how-do-you- 
do like a little gentleman?" 

But Nick did not say how-do-you-do like a little 
gentleman. He looked at Beauty, whose eyes were 
rather troubled, and whose face had put on its flam- 
ing poppy-color. Then he looked at the bearded 
man, straight into his smiling eyes. The Something 
that lurked deep down in Nick's heart leaped up into 
his head, just as it had leaped up when he threw the 
scissors at Polly's face. But he did not throw any- 
thing at the visitor. There was nothing in his hands 
to throw. He just stared at him ever so quietly, 
and then said in a voice that seemed to rush out of 
his throat: 

"You— Beast!" 

Then he turned round and walked very slowly out 
of the room, while something went buzzing in his 
ears, so that he did not hear the bearded man's quiet 
laugh, nor Beauty's cry of anger. 

The time came when Nick had to say "How-do- 
you-do" to Mr. Reginald Danvers (whom he only 
called the Beast in private, to Peter Rabbit, the Squir- 
rel, the Red Engine, and the hassock with two ears, 
after his first public announcement of the name), 
several times a week. For Mr. Danvers came 
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to Beauty's flat, high up in the sky, on many after- 
noons a week, and when he did not come to the flat, 
he came somewhere else, wherever Beauty happened 
to be. He turned up in the most surprising places, 
and always so quietly and imexpectedly, that Nick 
believed he must carry a magic carpet about with 
him, so that he could wish himself in the right 
place. Sometimes he would turn up round about 
the OwJ-house in Battersea Park, and if Beauty had 
gone there for a walk with Nick, which she never 
used to do before the coming of the Beast, and 
sometimes Nick would see his smile and his brown 
beard coming across the rustic bridge over the lake 
(above the big stones where the water rats bob in 
and out), and sometimes he would be sitting with 
his brown felt hat at the back of his head, smiling 
into the face of the sun, opposite the ducks' feeding 
place. He also seemed surprised to see Beauty, and 
always said the same thing: 

"Now who would have thought of meeting you ! 
What a stroke of luck !" 

And he always patted Nick on the shoulder, and 
said, "Well, little man, and how are you?" but never 
waited for an answer, because he was in such a hurry 
to talk to Beauty. 

Nick noticed that Beauty's face was sometimes 
like a flaming poppy when she met Danvers, and 
that afterward there was a queer shining light in 
her eyes, and that she forgot all about Nick himself 

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as long as Danvers was with her. Afterward, as 
though she was sorry for having forgotten him such 
a lot, she would hug him tight to her, and kiss 
him quite a number of times, and lean her forehead 
up against his face, as though to make sure she 
should not forget him again, 

Danvers knew that Nick hated him, and Nick 
knew that he knew. But Danvers was always try- 
ing to make Nick like him, and Nick hated him for 
that worse than ever. He used to bring boxes of 
sweets out of the pockets of his velvet coat, and say : 
"Here's something for you, little man.'' And some- 
times he would stop in front of a toy shop and wave 
his stick at the window and say : "Do you see any- 
thing you want, Nick, my lad?'' 

Of course there were heaps of things which Nick 
wanted, but when the Beast asked him he shook 
his head and said : "No, thanks," so that Danvers 
was surprised, and laughed with a bad sound in his 
throat. But he had to take the Rocking Horse. It 
was impossible not to take it, because it came in at 
the front door on the shoulders of a man who puflfed 
and panted and said: "Them steps is the very 
devil," and dumped down the big parcel from which 
a tail stuck out at one end, and a horse's nose at the 
other. 

"Goodness alive, what's this ?" cried Polly. 

Even Beauty came out of her bedroom in her dress- 

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ing gown at the noise of the parcel being dumped in 
the hall. 

"Why, it's a Rocking Horse!" said Beauty. 
"Whoever can have sent it?" 

Polly solved the mystery by peering at a label tied 
to the horse's neck. 

"To 'Nick, from Mr. Danvers." 

"Oh, I see !" said Beauty, and she went back into 
her bedroom rather quickly. 

"Oh, it's from the Beast!" said Nick. The words 
slipped out of his mouth before he could swallow 
them, but fortunately Polly didn't hear, as she was 
busy unwrapping the brown paper. Certainly it 
was a magnificent horse, with a bushy white tail 
and a curly white mane, and a laughing eye on 
each side of its head, and fiery nostrils to show that 
it had a proud spirit, and reins fastened on by gold- 
headed nails. 

Nick gazed at it with reverence and admiration, 
but something seemed to stick in his throat like a 
fish-bone. He was quite silent while Polly showed 
her delight by a series of exclamations, such as: 
"Well, I never did!" "Upon my word!" and "Who 
would have thought it now?" Then suddenly she 
noticed Nick's lack of enthusiasm, and said: 

"Eh, but don't you like it, Master Nick?" 

"It's splendid," said Nick, "but somehow I haven't 
begun to love it yet." 

He loved it tremendously by the time he went to 
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bed, but as he lay back on his pillow so that he 
could see Robin's white mane (he called it Robin 
because it had a red breast), like a cloud blown back 
by the wind, and one of his laughing eyes gleaming 
in the rays of the night light, he gave a deep sigh 
and said: 

"I am sorry the Beast gave you to me, Robin 
dear. But I suppose it can't be helped." 

Nick supposed it couldn't be helped that the Beast 
came such a lot to see Beauty. And he supposed 
also that it couldn't be helped that the Beast played 
the piano better-than any one else in the world — 
though he was a Beast. 

It was Beauty who said that he played better than 
any one else in the world, and Nick knew that she 
spoke the truth. Because sometimes when the Beast 
played, it seemed to Nick that his own soul had 
jumped clean out of his body and that it went on 
strange and wonderful adventures, farther into the 
mystery places than he had ever been before. There 
were great chords, like enormous thunder, as though 
the sky had burst and then there were thousands of 
little pattering notes like all the rain-drops in the 
sky chasing each other, and singing little songs to 
each other, and dancing round and round each other. 
And sometimes the Beast played so softly and so 
sweetly that it was like the voice of Beauty just 
before he went to sleep, humming a little tune to 
him full of mother love. 

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Beauty must have guessed that, for when the 
Beast played these tunes she sat very still, with a 
funny little smile round her lips, and her eyes like 
flowers with the dew in them. There were other 
tunes he played which seemed to frighten Beauty, 
for they made the color come ebbing into her face, 
and once she cried out sharply : 

"DonH! That's wicked music!" 

"Why wicked?'' asked Danvers, twisting round 
on his music stool. "It is the music of the loving 
heart. Hark, how pleading it is, how passionate!'' 

At times he played so sadly that Nick seemed to 
hear a strange wailing, like that of lost boys crying 
to be found, and he knew that it was sad to Beauty 
too, for her eyelashes were wet, and she said : 

"It is like the cry of a broken heart. I hate it 
when you play like that" 

But he could play tunes which made Nick laugh 
in spite of himself, tunes full of jokes which he could 
not quite catch before they had gone, but which 
were enormously comical. And one afternoon, when 
he sat playing there, he twiddled a little in the 
treble notes, and turned his head round so that he 
could see into Beauty's eyes, and said through his 
soft beard, very softly : 

"Dance to me!" 

Beauty shook her head. 

He played a few more twiddly notes in the treble, 
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and looked into Beauty's eyes again, and said once 
more: 

"Dance to me!" 

Beauty said: "I will not dance to you!" but 
Dan vers suddaily struck a sharp chord, and then 
play-ed a strange dance tune like a tip-toe dance, 
very light and swaying, and Nick, who was watch- 
ing Beauty, saw the color rise from her throat into 
her face, and a queer glint of light come into her 
eyes, and though she still clasped the arms of the 
chair, she half rose from her seat. 

"Dance to me !" said Danvers across his shoulder. 

The dance tune seemed to have a spell in it, like 
one of the witch's spells in Grimm's Fairy Tales, 
and it caught hold of Beauty so that she unclasped 
her arms from the chair, and stood very straight, 
and then moved forward, swaying like the music 
swayed, with a queer, half-frightened smile on her 
face. Then she rose onto tip-toes, and to each little 
note her feet seemed to trip in little steps, and her 
arms, which were outstretched, shook a little and 
quivered to the tips of her fingers. Presently she 
took up her white skirt and danced more quickly, 
and her body writhed like a snake, and as the music 
changed, her face and body changed, and she be- 
came rather mad, and there was a strange light in 
her eyes, and she snapped her fingers with little 
clicks, like the crack of a whip, she plucked a rose 
from her hair, and put it to her lips and let it fall, 
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THE COMING OF THE BEAST 

and as the music played on, she seemed to make 
love to the fallen rose, and swayed about it, bending 
to it, and then recoiling from it and shuddering back 
from it, as though it had changed into some ugly 
toad. All the time Danvers watched her over his 
shoulder with a smile half hidden by his soft beard, 
until at last he crashed out a final chord, and before 
the sound of it was silent Beauty half fell onto the 
sofa, with her face in her hands, weeping. 

Danvers was frightened. He leaned over Beauty 
and said: 

"Hush, little woman, it's all right I am sorry 
it got into your blood like that." 

"You bring out all my beastliness !" said Beauty. 

Nick heard the words, and wondered at them, and 
cried because Beauty was crying. That made her 
sit up, and she said: "Nick! I forgot you were 
here. It's all right, mannikin. There's nothing the 
matter with Beauty." 

She laughed quite loudly, and then seemed a little 
frightened again. 

"Don't tell Bristles, Nick," she said. "Promise 
me you won't tell. Promise me, Nidc." 

"What does it matter?" said Danvers. 

"Promise me, Nick." 

She was down on her knees befcwe him, clasping 
the boy with both hands. 

Nick promised not to tell Bristles, but it was a 
promise which put a pain into his heart. 
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BEAUTY AND NICK 

Why shouldn't he tell Bristles? Didn't Beauty 
belong to Bristles, and didn't Bristles belong to 
Beauty? Didn't they share each other's secrets? 
. . He could not understand, but from that 
time he hated the Beast more than he had ever 
hated him. 



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CHAPTER III 

THE GIRL OF THE GROUND-FLOOR FLAT 

Of course there were other people in the world 
which centred round Nicholas Barton besides those 
who inhabited or visited the small flat, high up in 
the sky, which looked down to the trees in Battersea 
Park. 

As the days of the years of his life stole past 
so quietly that they seemed to walk on tip-toe, Nich- 
olas came to know many people by sight, and many 
by heart. Because the flat which he used to call 
his "hole in the wall," until he knew the proper 
name for it, was in a most excellent position for 
learning all about the world on the sunny side of 
Battersea Park in the enormously long street where 
blocks of mansions had grown higher than the high- 
est tree in front of them, so that the clouds almost 
touched the chimney-pots on their flat roofs. 

There was an iron balcony outside Nick's flat, 
with iron railings through which, with a little squeez- 
ing, he could put his nose and both his eyes and 
about half his head, so that he could get a bird's- 
eye view of all the balconies below him, and each 
side of him, and of all the funny things which hap- 
pened there. Lots of funny things happened, and 

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lots of funny people came through the windows on 
to their balconies, or out of the front doors into the 
street. This comedy of life began at about eight 
o'clock in the morning, when Nick and Bristles used 
to come out to get a breath of fresh air before 
breakfast. (That was an idea belonging to Bristles, 
who used to come on to the balcony, stare across 
the tree-tops in the Park, and take enormous gulps 
of air, as if he were drinking it.) Other people 
came on to their balconies. One of them was a 
young man in pink pyjamas, who seemed eager to 
know how tall his nasturtiums had grown in the 
night, and who used to talk to an invisible lady 
through the window while he examined his plants. 
Sometimes she became visible for a few moments, 
in a blue dressing-gown, and then would dart back 
again if she thought anybody were looking. After 
breakfast she would become visible in a linen dress, 
the color of light brown paper, so that she might 
kiss her hand to the young man (who had taken off 
his pyjamas and put on black clothes and a chimney- 
pot hat) as he came out into the street 
in a tearing hurry. Nick noticed that for 
some weeks the lady was altogether invisible 
and the young man never turned back in 
his tearing hurry to look up at her balcony. 
But she became visible again a little while after 
the morning when the young man found a bald- 
headed baby in one of his flower-pots. At least, 

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Bristles thought he must have found it there, and 
said he was a lucky beggar, and he had half a mind 
to grow nasturtiums himself. After that the young 
man and the bald-headed baby were always having 
jokes together, and Nick used to listen to all the 
chuckling and gurgling and crowing and laughing 
which used to come up from that balcony. 

He also knew the Giant with the wee wife (that 
was what Bristles called them) who lived in the 
balcony next but one. The Giant was so big, atid 
wore such a big-brimmed hat and such a big cloak 
over his big clothes that he seemed to fill up the whole 
balcony when he sat there in a cane chair — with the 
wee wife quite hidden by him — writing tremendous 
long letters to some one Nick did not know. He 
was always writing these long, long letters, and he 
seemed to make jokes in them, for sometimes he 
would stop and laugh loudly, with a Giant's laugh, 
and then dash over the paper with a fat paicil, as 
though to catch up to another joke. Every morn- 
ing at ten o'clock a hansom cab came below the 
balcony with jingling bells, and the Giant would 
come out into the street with his wee wife walking 
behind him, and get into the cab first, because (as 
Bristles said), if he had got in second, his wee wife 
would have had her wee life squashed out of her. 
The old, old cab-horse — he was at least a hundred 
years old — used to stagger in the shafts, and the 
cab would rock backward — as though an earthquake 

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had happened, and the old, old cabman — ^he was at 
least a hundred and twenty years old — used to shout 
"Gree-up !" And so the Giant and his wee wife would 
drive off to one of the mystery places. 

Then there were all the mothers of all the bald- 
headed babies who had been found in the flower-pots 
on the balconies, and all the nurses bought by the 
mothers to look after the bald-headed babies, and 
all the fathers who looked after the mothers who 
had bought the nurses who looked after the bald- 
headed babies. They used to come out on to the 
balconies, dancing the babies up and down when the 
piano-organs played in the street, and they used to 
make a great fuss round the perambulators when 
the bald-headed babies used to go out to say good 
morning to the ducks in the Park, and the mother 
of each baby used to say exactly the same things 
to the nurses who wheeled each perambulator. Nick 
knew exactly what the mothers would say, even be- 
fore they had said it. First they would say : "Isn't 
he a precious sweet?" Then they would say: "Do 
you think he is warm enough?" and thirdly they 
would say : "Oh, the beautiful darling, I could eat 
him, I could!" 

But it was an extraordinary thing, thought Nick, 
that no one seemed to find more than one baby in 
a flower-pot. There was one balcony to each flat, 
and one baby to each balcony. He consulted Bristles 
on the subject, and Bristles, after puffing at his 

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THE GIRL OF THE GROUND-FLOOR FLAT 

pipe, said he supposed it was because the flower-pots 
were not large enough, or because babies preferred 
houses to flats, which seemed true, for Nick knew 
houses on the other side of the Park where the 
mothers had two nurses and two perambulators, and 
sometimes two babies in each perambulator. He 
wished sometimes that Bristles and Beauty would 
go to live in a house, because, though he had never 
actually spoken to a bald-headed baby, he thought 
it would be rather fun to have a few about him, 
so that he could have jokes with them. When he 
got tired of them, he could shut them up in a cup- 
board with his other toys. 

It was on the balcony that some hints of the mys- 
teries and wonders and thrill of life came into the 
soul of Nicholas Barton, as he sat there on sunny 
days with Peter Rabbit in a chair which he had 
made for him out of a cardboard box, and with 
Bristles, who was smoking his pipe, and reading his 
paper, and staring away over the tree-tops. For 
up to the high balcony came the music of life, made 
up of hundreds of sounds all joining into one tune 
— the rattling notes of a distant piano-organ, the 
faint, far-off chorus of the birds in Battersea Park, 
the laughter of the mothers on the balconies, the 
jingle of cab-bells, the hooting of the steamers on 
the river, the song sung in a high voice by the girl 
in the second floor flat, the scales played on many 
pianos through many open windows, the strange 

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BEAUTY AND NICK 

melancholy cry of the sweep, who asked the world 
to "Veep! 'weep!" — the cheerful cry of "Milk-oo" 
to the rattle of tin cans, the shouts of the boys row- 
ing to the magic islands on the lake. 

Listening to all this, and looking down upon the 
little people who passed in the street, far below, 
Nick fdt like God— at least he felt that he felt 
like God — ^gazing down upon the world from this 
flat in Heaven, very interested in all the goings-on 
down there, and wondering why the people did the 
things they did, and curious to know more about 
them. 

Nick wanted to know much more about them, and 
he asked Bristles to tell him some of the millions 
of things he wanted to know. 

"Why do all the men go away from home when 
the sun has nearly eaten up the mist and then come 
home when the shadows climb down from the 
trees?" 

To which question Bristles made answer : 

"Because they have to earn money to pay for 
the pretty hats of their lady wives, and for the new 
clothes of their bald-headed babies, and for all the 
things which have to be bought and paid for." 

"How do they earn the money?" asked Nick. 

To which Bristles replied, between the puffs of his 
pipe: 

"By doing all sorts of jobs which have to be 
done." 

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THE GIRL OF THE GROUND-FLOOR FLAT 

"What kind of jobs?" 

"Writing books for people who are too lazy to 
think, adding up figures for people who have so 
much money that they can't count it all themselves, 
examining fleas through microscopes and counting 
the little fleas on the backs pf the big fleas, inventing 
news for the newspapers, pretending that criminals 
are innocent men, and that innocent men are crim- 
inals — ^and all sorts of useful jobs like that." 

"I see," said Nicholas, though he did not see quite 
clearly. After thinking the matter out for some 
time, he searched about for some new discoveries. 

"Why do the men work so hard for nothing at 
all?" 

"How do you mean?" 

"I mean, what do they get for themselves after 
they have given all their money for the things that 
have to be bought and paid for?" 

Bristles shifted in his seat, and rubbed his nose 
with the bowl of his pipe, so that it shone with a 
bright new polish. 

"Well, they get some 'baccy to smoke, and enough 
to eat and drink, and a bald-headed baby or two to 
play about with, and some nasturtiums in the bal- 
cony, and — and — I'm blest if I can think of anything 
else." 

"I think they're asses," said Nick. "They ought 
to get more for their money." 

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Bristles laughed at the reflection of his own face 
in the bowl of the pipe. 

"I am not so sure/' he said. "You see, Nick, 
a fellow must work or else he gets awfully tired with 
himself. And it's not the money he gets so much 
as the fun he gets in trying to get the money. See?'* 

"I think I see/' said Nick. "It's like when I try 
ever so hard to build up a house of cards, and then, 
when it is built, all the fun dies and I kick down 
the house." 

"Exactly!" said Bristles. "That's just like real 
life, except that it is generally somebody else who 
kicks down the card house. The best man is the 
one who keeps on building them up again, enjoying 
the fun every time. That's what's called an Opti- 
mist." 

"Are you an Optimist?" asked Nick. 

Bristles rubbed his bristly jaw. The little hairs 
were beginning to sprout up again, although he had 
only cut them down before breakfast. 

"I used to be," he said, at last, puffing out a long 
coil of smoke, "but I think I'm changing into a 
Pessimist" 

"What's that?" 

"Why, a fellow that is always afraid his house 
of cards is going to tumble down." 

"Oh!" said Nick, very quickly. "That's rotten. 
You can't build any house like that. I know, be- 

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cause I sometimes feel like that on bad days, and 
then every card goes wrong." 

"Quite true, old man/' said Bristles. "If s bad 
to feel like that." 

He gave a tremendous sigh, as though it made 
him feel very bad, and then for quite a long time he 
stared away over the tree-tops, as if he were looking 
for something in the far distance, while Nick sat 
watching him, and wondering if he could do any- 
thing to make his father an Optimist again. 

It was on this morning that Nick made three of 
his really big discoveries. 

After Bristles had given up looking for the some- 
thing in the far distance and had brought his eyes 
back to the balcony again, Nick had another ques- 
tion to ask. 

"What do you do to earn the money for the 
things that have to be bought and paid for?" 

And Bristles said : 

"I add up figures for the people who have so much 
money that they can't count it all themselves. It's 
what they call being Something in the City." 

"I see," said Nick. "It's a funny thing I haven't 
asked you that before. The idea never jumped into 
my head." 

"Well, now you know," said Bristles. 

"Yes — now I know why you are so frightfully 
rich. I suppose you get all the money that the 
people who can't count don't know they have." 

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BEAUTY AND NICK 

Bristles laughed as though he had become an Op- 
timist again. 

"My dear old man, what makes you think I'm 
frightfully rich?" 

"Because you pay for Beauty and me and Polly 
and all the other things that cost such a lot." 

"Beauty pays for herself, worse luck," said 
Bristles. "And I am as poor as a church mouse — 
worse luck, also." 

"Not really as poor as a church mouse?" asked 
Nick with a great anxiety, for he somehow felt that 
a Church Mouse must be frightfully poor. 

"Really and truly," said Bristles. 

"That's rotten," said Nick. 

That was all he said, but he thought about it a 
lot, and he knew that he had made three terribly 
big discoveries. One was that Beauty paid for 
herself. He did not know before then that any 
kind of Beauty ever paid for herself. And the sec- 
ond was that Bristles was Something in the City. 
That sounded absolutely awful. And the third was 
that he was as poor as a church mouse, which was 
worst of all. 

These discoveries made all sorts of queer little 
ideas jump into his head, and they did not jump out 
again like some of his ideas, but grew into big ideas 
which took up a lot of room, so that sometimes they 
made his head ache. 

But for some reason which he could not explain 
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to himself he never spoke about these discoveries to 
the girl of the ground-floor flat, and that was funny, 
because he used to tell her about nearly all the dis* 
coveries which he made from time to time. She 
had a lot of her own discoveries, and they used to 
exchange them with each ottier, just as they ex- 
changed their fairy-tale books, and some of the toys 
they had got tired of, and some of the sweets which 
came to them on birthdays and holidays. This was 
Joan Darracott, who hadn't got a balcony, because 
she lived next to the street, but who had a front 
garden in which she planted seeds which never grew 
up. 

Joan was a girl with a short white frock and long 
black legs and yellow hair like a wax doll's, which 
was tied up over each ear by a white silk bow. 
Nick had known her a long time by sight, before 
he knew her by heart, because she was the girl who 
always picked up the things which he dropped down 
from the balcony into her garden, and never gave 
them back again. He dropped down a big ball with 
a picture of Westminster Abbey on one side and 
with a picture of the Tower of London on the 
other side, and among other things he dropped down 
were his second best pistol, his biggest marble with 
the colored snake inside, and his mouth-organ. Joan 
picked these things up as though they had fallen 
from Heaven — and indeed they had fallen almost 
as far — ^and he actually heard her playing the mouth- 

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BEAUTY AND NICK 

organ in her front garden one day, just as if it be^ 
longed to her, although she couldn't get any kind 
of tune out of it, but just blew up and down in a 
silly sort of way. 

This was a bit too much for Nicholas Barton. 
He happened to be passing the raiHngs of the 
ground-floor flat, and he put his nose between them, 
and said: 

"Hi ! That's my mouth-organ !" 

The girl with the short white frock and the long 
black legs stopped blowing, looked round to see 
where the voice came from, and then said, very 
calmly : 

"No, it isn't." 

"Yes, it is," said Nick. 

"No, it isn't," said Joan. 

"Yes, it is," said Nick. 

This went on for some time, until they both got 
tired of saying the same thing. Then the girl said, 
by way of a change: 

"I found it in my garden, and what I find in my 
garden is mine. See?" 

"No, I don't," said Nick. "If you'll hand that 
mouth-organ through the railings I will prove it's 
mine." 

"How will you prove it?" 

"By playing a tune on it." 

"Pooh ! You can't play a tune," said the girl. 
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"Can't I r said Nick. 'That's all you know about 
it." 

The girl put the mouth-organ through the railings. 

"It's my mouth-organ, but I will let you play one 
time on it, if you know how." 

Nick seized the mouth-organ, and after taking 
a good deep breath to last him a long time, played : 

Here we go looby-loo, 

Here we go looby-light. 
Here we go looby-loo. 

All on a Saturday night. 

He finished with a triumphant note, put the 
mouth-organ in his pocket, said: "Now you know 
it is mine !" and walked away. 

But he stopped suddenly because his blood was 
frozen in his veins by the sound of a piercing scream. 
It came from the girl with the short white frock 
and long black legs. 

"What's the matter?" asked Nick, going back 
to the railings. 

Two hands were suddenly thrust between the rail- 
ings, and clutched hold of him so that he couldn't 
escape. 

"Give it back!" screamed the girl. "Give me 
my mouth-organ." 

"It's my mouth-organ!" gasped Nick. "I proved 
it to you." 

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BEAUTY AND NICK 

"If you don't give it back I'll scream till your 
ears break/' said the girl. 

Then she started screaming so that Nick was quite 
sure his ears would break. He simply couldn't bear 
it, so he shouted as loudly as he could : 

"If you will let go of my arms, I will give it to 
you." 

She stopped screaming instantly, and waited while 
Nick dived down into his pocket, wrenched out his 
beautiful mouth-organ, and handed it through the 
railings, where it was grabbed by the girl. 

"Sneak !" said Nick, and with that word of scorn 
he walked away. But he hadn't gone two yards be- 
fore he heard a voice calling "Boy ! boy !" He went 
back again, and saw the girl's eyes through the 
railings. 

"What do you want?" asked Nick. 

"Here's your silly old mouth-organ. Good rid- 
dance to bad rubbish." 

Nick took the precious instrument and walked 
away with it, but somehow the tunes seemed to have 
gone out of it for a little while. He sat down in 
his own room upstairs, and had a long talk with 
Peter Rabbit. 

"Peter," he said, "are all girls like that? Do 
they scream for things they don't want, and then 
give them back again to the people the things belong 
to?" 

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Peter was silent, but Nick took his answer for 
granted. 

"Well, all I can say is that girls must be awfully 
rotten,'' said Nick. 

And yet the curious thing is that, although Nick 
came to this opinion about girlhood in general and 
the girl of the ground-floor flat in particular, he 
found himself longing to have further conversation 
with that remarkable young lady. The opportunity 
came one day when he had gone quite alone into 
Battersea Park — he was old enough now to go 
alone — in order to have a few words with the old 
owls, to pass the time of day with the squirrel, in 
case he had come out from the back parlor of his 
cage, to throw a pebble at the water rats under 
the rustic bridge, and to stand under the big tree 
which stretched its arms down to catch small boys, 
or at least one small boy who had tremendous thrills, 
although he knew the tree could not stretch low 
enough to reach him. 

It was down the path close to this tree that the 
girl of the ground-floor flat came with a big dog, 
a fair-sized nurse, and a very little sunshade, which 
she spim like a teetotum over her shoulder. She 
stopped spinning the parasol when she saw Nick, 
and said, with a friendly grin : 

*'Hulloh, boy?'' 

"HuUohT" said Nick. 

The nurse said: "Come on, Miss Joan," and 
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moved on with her nose in a novelette which she 
was reading as she walked. 

But Miss Joan did not come on. 

She said to Nick : "I bet I'll race you to the other 
end of the grass. One, two, three, and away!" 

She was away before she got as far as two, which 
was not quite fair, and she won the race easily, be- 
cause she had a start of at least five yards, so that 
Nick came up panting and humiliated. 

"You cheated," he said. 

The girl of the ground-floor flat laughed, and 
flung herv sunshade on to the grass, and sat down 
next to the sunshade, with her short white skirt 
spread all round her and her long black legs stick- 
ing out, while her big dog, which had joined in 
the race, rushed round five trees and then came to 
lie down by the side of his mistress, grimacing hap- 
pily with his tongue lolling out. 

"You cheated," said Nick again. 

"Did I?" said the girl. "Well, father says girls 
always cheat, so I suppose I can't help it." 

"It's rotten to cheat," said Nick. "Boys don't 
cheat." 

"Don't they?" said the girl. "I suppose they're 
not clever enough. They're frightfully stupid 
things, boys." 

"How do you know ?" asked Nick. 

The little girl lay back on the grass and stared 
up at the sky. 

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"It was one of my discoveries," said the girl; 
kicking her heels up and down. 

Nick was startled. 

"Do you make discoveries too?" he asked. 

"Oh, I'm always making them. Father says he 
doesn't know how I find out half the things I do." 

"Do you mind telling me some of your discov- 
eries?" said Nick, sitting down on the grass, with 
his knees tucked up to his chin, and his hands 
clasped round his knees, while he stared at the girl 
kicking her heels up and down. 

She did not mind telling him in the least. But 
she said she could only tell him a few, until nurse 
finished her novelette on the seat over there and 
then came to say : "Whatever have you been doing, 
Miss Joan? I've been looking for you everywhere, 
and I shall tell your mamma what a naughty little 
girl you've been." 

"But that would be an awful whopper!" said 
Nick. "Does she generally tell whoppers?" 

"Always," said the little girl. "That was one of 
my discoveries." 

Among her other discoveries were the following 
remarkable facts : 

That grown-up people are always deceiving small 
boys and girls; 

That grown-up people think small boys and girls 
don't know they are being deceived; 

That small boys and girls don*t let the grown- 
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up people know that they know they are being de- 
ceived; 

That grown-up people are always telling boys 
and girls to do things which they wouldn't do them- 
selves. 

"What sort of things?" asked Nick. 

"Oh, being obedient, and saying you're sorry 
when you're not sorry, and glad when you're not 
glad, and eating puddings you hate, and going to 
bed at the proper time like a good girl, and learn- 
ing lessons which you don't want to learn, and heaps 
and hundreds of other things which make you want 
to scream the house down." 

"Do you ever try. to scream the house down?" 
asked Nick. 

"Oh, often.'' 

"Well, I hope you won't," said Nick, anxiously. 
"Because I live in the top-floor flat, you know." 

Joan Darracott considered this idea in all its 
bearings. 

"Yes," she said, "you would come down an awful 
whop, wouldn't you?" 

That was about the end of the first conversation, 
for the nurse, having finished the novelette, came 
over and said exactly the things Joan said she would 
say. But afterwards Nick often met Joan in Batter- 
sea Park, and whenever Nick had any sweets in his 
pocket Joan took more than half of them, and when- 
ever Joan had any sweets in her pocket she gave 
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him one or two as a great favor, and said he ought 
to be very grateful to her. If he had a new toy she 
"swapped" it for somethmg he didn't want, so that 
he hated her for making him "swap" (which was a 
word he didn't know before), but became her victim 
again the very next time. 

He couldn't make up his mind whether he hated 
her most or liked her most, because sometimes he 
hated her so much that he wanted to kill her, and 
sometimes he liked her so much that he was afraid 
of liking her more even than Beauty, and more than 
Peter Rabbit, and more than Robin the Rocking 
Horse. 

He liked her most when she played games of 
hide-and-seek with him in and out of the trees, cry- 
ing "Cuckoo ! Cuckoo !" in a voice like the top-notes 
of his mouth-organ, and then darting from behind a 
tree, with her yellow hair glittering like gold, and 
her eyes like dancing stars, and her white frock Uke 
a puff of white smoke. 

And he liked her when she sat down under a 
tree with him, with her head against his shoulder, 
and her arm roimd his waist, telling him queer 
dream-tales about cats with pink eyes, and princesses 
with glass slippers, and flowers that came out of 
the flower-beds at night and danced until the sun 
got up. And he liked her when she told him about 
a man called Daddy, who wrote books which nobody 
would ever read, because they were much too good, 

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and about a lady called Mumsy, who said that she 
wished she had married a man who sold butter 
instead of books, because everybody wanted butter 
but nobody wanted books ; and about a man called 
Uncle Jack, who said the country was going to the 
dogs (Joan could never find out why), and about a 
lady called Aunt Sarah, who said the Radicals were 
perfect devils (though Joan had never met a Radi- 
cal and didn't know what it looked like), and about 
all the other people who came to the ground-floor 
flat. 

But Nick hated her when Joan cheated him at 
marbles, broke his humming top and said it was 
his fault, and scratched his face because he had given 
her a new silver sixpence (the whole of his week's 
pocket money), which she dropped over the rustic 
bridge into the place where the water-rats lived. 

After dropping the silver sixpence she dropped 
several tears, which fell into the water and made 
tiny ripples, and when Nick said: "Never mind, 
Joan," she turned round and scratched his face, and 
said: "It was my sixpence and I do mind — so 
there!" 

But he hated her most of all when she told him 
of one of her discoveries. 

"My mother says that your mother — ^the one you 
call Beauty — ^is a fast creature, and that there'll be 
a scandal one of these fine days." 

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"What's a scandal?'' asked Nick, getting voiy 
white in the face. 

"I don't exactly know," said Joan. "Something 
frightful, I expect." 

"And what's a fast creature?" asked Nick, breath- 
ing very hard. 

"A creature that is fast," said Joan in her wisest 
way. "Wound up too much, like a fast clock." 

Nick knew that the Something which had a hid- 
ing-place deep down in his heart was tearing its 
way up, stretching out great claws into his brain, 
setting his eyes on fire. 

He made one grab at Joan Darracott and took out 
a handful of her yellow hair. He still held it as 
he set off running to the Park gates, while Joan 
Darracott's screams were blown faintly to his ears 
by the pursuing wind. 



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CHAPTER IV 

THE HOUSE OF THE BEAST, 

It was about the time that' Nicholas Barton took 
forcible possession of some of Joan Darracotfs 
golden curls that he became aware of a secret be- 
tween himself and Bristles. He discovered that 
Bristles hated the Beast as much as he did, and 
perhaps a little bit more. 

This idea jumped into his head suddenly one day, 
and afterward grew into certain knowledge. It 
came to him first on a Saturday afternoon when 
Bristles came home early, as usual, took off his 
black coat and chimney-pot hat, put on an old grey 
coat and a pepper-and-salt cap, and said: 

"Now, Nick, old man, let's go and feed the ducks." 

To Polly he said : 

"When will the mistress be home?'' 

(He always called Beauty "the mistress.") 

And Polly said : 

"Not till late, as she's got one of her rehearsals, 
poor dear !" 

Nicholas had never yet found out what a rehearsal 
was, but he knew it was something horrid, because 
Beauty was always in a bad temper when she had 
to go to one, and Bristles always said "Hang the 

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rehearsals!'* and Polly always said, *Toor dear!" 
when Beauty came home with a rehearsal-headache. 

But this afternoon he did not think much about 
the matter, because he had been saving a number of 
crusts of bread all the week for this very Saturday 
afternoon when Bristles would come home and say : 

"Now, Nick, old man, let's go and feed the ducks." 

So he had a nice, warm, happy feeling under his 
jersey when he set off with Bristles and the bag of 
crusts, and thought of the tremendous quacking 
there would be, and the exciting chases and fights 
as soon as he began to throw the bread into the 
water. 

It all happened as he had hoped it would, and 
Nick shouted with laughter, and Bristles chuckled 
with laughter, and other small boys laughed and 
shouted, and other fathers chuckled, when he flung 
crusts into the struggling crowd of ducks who gob- 
bled them up as fast as he could throw. He knew 
most of them by sight and by name. There was 
old Yellow-bill, the greediest of them all, and little 
Black-eye, the next greediest, and Green-tail, the 
Japanese duck, -and Bob-tail, the fellow who was al- 
ways fighting. It was Bob-tail who made the biggest 
noise and who scurried across the water with flap- 
ping wings and paddling feet in hot chase of any 
rival to whom Nick had flung a crust. 

The fun came to an end too quickly, and a store 

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of crusts which had taken a week to save were all 
gone in five minutes. 

"What shall we do now?'* said Nick, with that 
desire for adventure which sometimes made him 
tired of his old friends, like the Squirrel and the 
sleepy owls. 

Bristles put his cap back, so that the sun was 
warm on his face, and he stared at the lake which 
was like a big looking-glass reflecting the little white 
clouds and the blue sky. 

"How about a boat?" said Bristles. "We might 
go in search of the New World." 

Nick did a double-shuffle on the pathway. 

"Oh, rather! I will be Sir Francis Drake, and 
you can be Admiral Nelson. Only, you must pre- 
tend to have only one eye and one arm." 

Bristles suggested that as he would have to row 
he had better be Sir Francis Drake, with two arms, 
while Nick might be Admiral Nelson, except when 
he steered under the bridge, when he would want 
both his arms and very sharp eyes. After some dis- 
cussion this was agreed, and in a boat called the Oak- 
apple, which was a little leaky at the bottom, they 
set out in search of the New World. They had 
many adventures including hair-breadth escapes from 
Red Indians in other boats, and a providential es- 
cape from shipwreck when Nick, who was looking 
out for wild tigers on the distant shore, steered the 
boat into some floating timber. But then they 

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sighted the coast of America, and Bristles pulled 
steadily toward some over-hanging trees by the 
low-lying bank. 

But suddenly he stopped rowing and rested on his 
oars, and Nick saw that his father had a queer ex- 
piression on his face as he stared toward the trees, 
as though he saw some hideous cannibals or the 
one-eyed giant who hurled stones at Ulysses and his 
men. 

"What's the matter?" asked Nick, with that sud- 
den sense of fear which came to him sometimes when 
Bristles played the game as if it were really reaU 
He looked toward the overhanging tree at which 
Bristles was staring, and then gave a shout of sur- 
prise. 

"There's Beauty !— Beauty T' 

Beauty was lying at full length in a boat in the 
little shadow-world imder the overhanging tree, 
with her head propped up on a scarlet cushion, while 
at the other end of the boat Danvers sat with the 
rudder-strings in his hands and with his elbows on 
his knees, and his head drooped forward a little as 
he smiled down at Beauty. But they did not stay in 
this position after Nick's shout rang out over the 
water. Danvers turned his head sharply, and then 
sat up very straight, and Beauty raised her head 
from the pillow and then scrambled up like a big 
white bird startled from its nest. Nick knew that 
his voice had frightened her, and was sorry for 



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BEAUTY AND NICK 

having shouted so suddenly. She had a very scared 
look in her eyes. But only for a moment. Then 
she waved her hand, and called out, "Hulloh" and 
laughed so that the sound of her laughter seemed 
to ripple over the water. Danvers also waved his 
hand in a friendly way, but Nick pretended not to 
see that 

"Let's row under the tree," said Nick. "I expect 
Beauty wants to talk to us.'* 

But Bristles, who" still had a queer look on his 
face, plunged his oar into the water and pulled the 
boat round, and then rowed in the opposite direc- 
tion; and above the squeak of the rowlocks as the 
oars went to and fro, Nick heard Bristles say some- 
thing about "that beast Danvers" between his 
clenched teeth. He was not a bit playful for the 
rest of the afternoon, and forgot all about discov- 
ering the New World. But Nick had made another 
discovery. He knew now that Bristles hated the 
Beast. 

He knew it for certain that afternoon, when 
Beauty came home alone, with her hair untidy, after 
the wind had been playing with it, and with a queer 
little smile about her lips when she put her face up for 
Bristles to kiss. 

But Bristles did not kiss her. He wrinkled his 
forehead in the way he used to do when Nick was 
in one of his bad moods, and pretended to be busy 
with his pipe. 

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"I thought you had got a rehearsal this after- 
noon," he said very quietly. "Didn't you tell me 
so?" 

"Did I?" said Beauty. 

"I suppose it was a lie," said Bristles, and then 
he said in such a quiet voice that he seemed to be 
speaking with his teeth shut, "like so many other 
things you have told me lately." 

Nick was listening hard, and his eyes were watch- 
ing the faces of Beauty and Bristles, because he 
knew that, in spite of their quiet way of speaking, 
the queer Something which is in people's hearts was 
trying to get up to their throats. He knew that 
because Beauty's face went very white all of a sud- 
den, and because two sparks seemed to light up in 
her eyes, and because the wrinkles which Bristles 
put on to his forehead were so deep that they looked 
like the claws of a bird. 

"Don't bully me in front of the boy," said Beauty, 
"because I won't stand it. See?" 

"I am not going to bully you at all," said Bristles, 
striking a match, but forgetting to light his pipe. 
"All I want to know is why you told me you had 
a rehearsal when you had arranged to go in a boat 
with that beast Danvers. Perhaps you will give me 
a straight answer to a straight question, Beauty ?" 

Nick believed that Bristles was very angry until 
he said that word "Beauty." Then his voice seemed 

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to soften, as though he was sorry for being angry, 
and wanted to be kind again. 

But Beauty "flared up," as Polly used to say when 
Nick suddenly jumped into a rage. She threw her 
hat down on the sofa, and began to tear off her white 
gloves. 

"Don't put on your 'hanging judge' manner,'* 
she said. "I earn my own living, and I have a 
right to my own friends, and I decline to be cross- 
questioned as though I were a criminal in the dock. 
See?" 

She always spoke that little word "see" with a 
sudden lift of the voice, like one of the treble notes 
in the piano. Nick knew that when she did that 
she generally cried afterward, as though it had hurt 
her. 

Bristles struck another match, and forgot to light 
his pipe again. 

"Look here," he said, "I tell you once for all. 
Beauty, that I forbid you to have anything more to 
do with that man Danvers. I dislike both his man- 
ners and his morals, and if he comes inside this flat 
I shall kick him out again. Do you understand?" 

Beauty did not seem to understand. She just gave 
a queer little laugh, though Nick noticed that her 
nostrils quivered, and that the sparks in her eyes 
lighted up again. 

"I am afraid I don't understand that word 'for- 
bid,' " said Beauty. "It alw-ays seemed to me a very 

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foolish word to be used by any man to any wife. It 
is^ perfectly absurd from you to me, my dear old 
Bristly Bristles. Perfectly absurd!'' 

Then she told Nick to go and play in the kitchen 
with Polly, but outside the door Nick stood and 
listened for a little while, not hearing any words, 
but hearing the voices of Beauty and Bristles speak- 
ing quietly in a kind of duet, low notes and high 
notes clashing together. Nick wlas not very old, 
and not very big, but at that moment there was 
revealed to him something of the conflict of hearts, 
something of the great mystery of human passion, 
something of the tragedy of love. There were 
the two people whom he loved best in the world, 
but he could only stand outside the door and listen 
to the quarrel of their voices. He did not go into 
the kitchen to play with Polly, but crept away to 
ask queer questions of Peter Rabbit He stayed 
in his room until the light went out from the window 
panes, and the room was shadow-haunted — until 
Beauty's voice called to him: "Where are you, 
Nick ?" and until she came to search for him, won- 
dering at his sitting there so still in the twilight. 
When she turned on the electric light he saw that 
her lashes were wet and shining, and that the 
splash of a tear was still on her cheek. Nick ran 
to her, and kissed her hands, feeling frightfully sorry 
because he and Bristles had to hate the Beast so 
much. 

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For a long time after this Nicholas did not see 
the man Danvers. He never came to the flat again, 
perhaps because he had heard that Bristles wanted 
to kick him downstairs — and there were ever so 
many stairs from the top-floor flat to the ground-floor 
flat — so that Nicholas only kept the memory of him 
in one of the back cupboards of his mind. 

Nick had a lot of other things to think about now 
— tremendously exciting things, such as learning the 
difference between the letters of the alphabet, each 
one of which seemed to him like a person with a 
different character — the O was a fat, smiling fellow, 
the T was always holding his arms out to catch 
the letters on either side, the B was a little man 
with a big paunch, the I was a lean and lanky 
creature — and then fitting them together so that 
they made the words which Nick had used as long- 
as he could remember, and then making sentences 
which seemed to have secret meanings, as though 
they were hiding something behind the things they 
said, like "The cat sat on the mat," "The boy had 
a big toy," "The fat cat sat on the big toy of the 
boy." Here was a domestic drama which seemed 
like the beginning of a fairy tale, but whicli left 
Nick puzzled as to the end of it. Then he learned 
about the bigness of the world on colored maps,, 
and traced out long journeys from Battersea Park 
to Buenos Ayres, and from the river Thames to the 
West Indies, and he learned to make baskets with 

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colored straws and mats with colored papers, which 
he brought home as presents for Beauty and 
Bristles. 

All these things he learned at a wonderful place 
called a Kindergarten, which he hated with a deadly 
hatred for the first week, imtil he liked it better 
than any other place, except his own top-floor flat. 
He went to the kindergarten every morning with 
Joan Darracott, the girl on the ground-floor flat, 
who was nearly always late in starting, because she 
had had a quarrel with her boots, or because she 
had got out of bed the wrong way, or because she 
had refused to eat her porridge. But she made up 
for her lateness by running races to the kindergarten 
with Nick, across the park, and always beating him, 
because of the long black legs which hardly touched 
the ground when she ran. 

She had forgotten all about the way in which 
he had pulled out some of her golden hair, and she 
did not scratch his face again, but once in the kinder- 
garten she stuck a pin into his arm because he would 
not let her copy his spelling from dictation, and 
when he gave a yell he had to stand in the corner 
with his face to the wall, because Miss Felicity 
Smith said that he must learn how to behave him- 
self. Joan also brought him into disgrace by throw- 
ing his spelling book into a puddle in the park, be- 
cause he said she was ridiculous to get out of bed 
the wrong way, and he was smacked on the hand 

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six times with the flat of a ruler because she drew 
a picture of Miss Felicity Smith on his copy book, 
and made it so ugly — ^it was like a turnip face with 
a very large mouth and very large teeth — that it 
was no wonder Miss Felicity was angry. 

"Why didn't you say I had done it?" asked Joan 
Darracott in a whisper, when he returned to his 
desk, very red in the face, and very hot in the heart. 

"Why didn't you say?" asked Nick. 

"Because I should have been smacked with the 
ruler," said Joan Darracott. 

"Well, it was your fault," said Nick. "I shall 
tell on you next time." 

"If you do," said Joan, "I will put my finger into 
your ink-pot and smudge it all over your face. Be- 
sides, you won't tell on me. Boys never tell on 
girls." 

"Why not?" 

"Because they're not supposed to." 

Nick could not argue against that. He knew it 
was true. He knew that although boys and girls 
sat together in the kindergarten, and did the same 
lessons, and played the same games, there was al- 
ways a difference between them. The boys always 
got the worst of it, because the girls were let off 
mistakes for which the boys were kept in, and be- 
cause the girls could be as rough ds they liked with 
the boys, but the boys must never be rough with the 
girls. 

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"Ladies first !" said Miss Felicity Smith, when the 
class went out into the playground, and the boys 
had to stand on one side while the ladies, with their 
noses perked up, marched past them. 

"Manners, pleased said Miss Felicity Smith, 
when one of the boys pulled a girFs hair because 
she had pinched him when he wasn't looking. 

"Young gentlemen should always be polite to 
yoimg ladies," said Miss Felicity Smith when one 
of the young ladies said that one of the young gentle- 
men had called her a "silly kid.'* She forgot to 
say that she had first called the young gentleman 
a "dirty toad." 

Nick sometimes wondered at these unfair rules of 
life. But after a time he gave up wondering about 
it, and accepted it as a natural and inevitable thing. 
Or, as he put it, "it couldn't be helped," like a lot 
of other little things, such as Joan's uncertainty of 
temper, and her cocky ways with him. She was 
frightfully cocky with him when she came out into 
the Park with her best clothes on, and passed him 
with a "Good morning, boy," as though he were 
a ragamuffin. And she was still more cocky with him 
when she won the prize for history, though he had 
told her all about William the Conqueror and 
•William Rufus and Stephen the very day before 
the questions had been asked, when she knew noth- 
ing about it at all, because she had used that part 
of her history book to make paper boats. 

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"I don't think you ought to have got the prize,"* 
said Nick. "I knew much more than you did. Only 
you always put your hand up as if you knew every- 
thing." 

"My father and mother are very proud of me," 
said Joan. "They think I am a very clever little 
girl/' 

"But you're not," said Nick. 

"Oh, yes, I am!" said Joan. 

"You're only a girl !" said Nick. 

"And you're only a boy!" said Joan. 

This brought them to a deadlock, and they were 
both silent for a little while, wondering what might 
be the next step in this argument. It was Joan who 
gained the victory by a brilliant stroke. 

"I will let you turn over the leaves of my prize 
book if you get your nurse to wash your hands 
well." 

She knew that would crush him. It was a smash- 
ing blow, because Nick's hands were always grubby, 
and hers were always lily-white. 

Nick put his hands in his pockets, and went away 
trying to whistle a pleasant tune. But his whistle 
dried up, and his lips were trembling. There was a 
terrible hate in his heart for Joan Darracott when 
he heard her cocky laugh behind him. And yet the 
hate did not last very long, for among all the girls 
at the kindergarten Joan suited him best. She had 
her good days, when she was very kind and nice, 

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when they went on their way to school with arms 
about each other's waists, and when they made 
promises to be friends forever and ever, because 
they liked the same kind of jokes, and exchanged 
each other's fairy-tales, and made the same discov- 
eries about the queer habits of grown-up people. 

He found Joan's friendship very useful and nec- 
essary to him when Beauty went away on tour. 
That was a few days after his reminder of the Beast. 

The reminder came in a queer way. Beauty had 
been "resting" for some time. That is to say, she 
did not go to the theatre, and used to stay in bed 
longer in the mornings and read a great many more 
novels with lovely ladies on the covers. That left 
her free in the afternoons and evenings, so that she 
could play more with Nick and quarrel more with 
Bristles, in her teasing way. Nick was glad that 
Beauty was resting, for on Wednesday afternoons, 
when he had a half holiday from the kindergarten, 
she used to take him on what she called a "jaunt,'' 
which meant that they would go to the Zoo together, 
where Beauty made faces at the monkeys and gave 
little squeals of laughter at them, and pointed out 
monkeys which reminded her of various friends; 
or they would go to a big shop where Beauty bought 
things which she did not want when they were sent 
home, and where they had tea together to the tune 
of a string band, and where they watched a lot of 
ladies exactly like those on the covers of Beauty's 

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novels; or they would go to other people's houses, 
where Nick had to sit very still and quiet while 
Beauty and the other people talked about things 
which seemed to amuse them a great deal, because 
they always laughed and made a great noise while 
they all talked at the same time, so that he had 
to laugh too, although he was never quite sure of 
the joke. 

It was on one of these jaimts that they met the 
man Dan vers, commonly called the Beast, whom 
Nick had not seen for a very long time. 

He was driving along the road in a hansom cab 
— it was somewhere near tht big shop where they 
had musical teas — and when he saw Beauty he put 
up his umbrella so that the cabman jerked up his 
reins, and the cab-horse sprawled out its feet, and 
the cab came to a standstill quite close to Beauty 
and Nick. 

*'Well met!'' said the Beast, jumping out of the 
cab and taking off his hat to Beauty. He did not 
pay the slightest attention to Nick. 

When Beauty shook hands with him she laughed, 
as if it were rather funny, and her face put on its 
flaming poppy-color. 

*'I was dashing home to get some tea before 
dashing off again to a concert. Come home with 
me and pour out the tea." 

"I don't think I had better," said Beauty, and 
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she glanced down at Nick, as though he might be 
in the way. 

"Oh, that's all right," said Danvers, carelessly. 
"I will keep the boy amused/' 

Beauty whispered a word or two which Nick did 
not hear, but then Danvers said, rather impatiently: 

"Surely you are not the man's slave, are you? 
Don't come if you don't want to." 

"I do want to," said Beauty. "I am ready for 
any kind of adventure this afternoon — any old 
thing to break the monotony." 

"Splendid!" said Danvers, and he raised his urn- 
brella again, so that a hansom cab which had been 
crawling along by the curb-stone drew *up with a 
clatter of hoofs. 

Nick sat on Beauty's lap in the cab, and Danvers 
sat rather close to Beauty, and tried to hold her 
hand, although she did not want him to hold it, 
and slapped his hand quite hard when he would 
not keep it to himself. This game, which Nick did 
not like, lasted until the cab stopped before a tall 
white house with steps leading up to a red front 
door. Danvers opened the door with a tiny latch- 
key, and making a very low bow to Beauty, said: 
"Welcome home, my dear!" 

For a moment she stood on the doorstep, as 
though hesitating to go in. Nick felt her clutching 
his hand very tightly, as though holding on to him 
for safety from something. He was quite sure she 

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was afraid of something, just like he used to be 
when he opened the door of his toy-cupboard in the 
dark, in case Something might jump out at him. 
However, in another moment or two she went into 
the hall and laughed, as though laughing at her 
own fears, and then sang the first line of a nursery 
rhyme which Nick knew quite well. 

"Will you come into my parlor?" said the Spider to 
the Fly. 

Danvers sang the next line, as he shut the front 
door: 

"It's the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy 1" 

Then he led the way into his parlor, which was 
not a little one, but a big room with panels of wood 
round the walls, and a ceiling painted all over with 
cupids and roses, and a long window divided into 
little square panes. Nick's roving eyes saw that 
the room was furnished with a round table with a 
polished top on which was a big vase full of roses, 
like those painted on the ceiling, and with a short 
piano, which opened on top like a big box, and 
with glass cases full of tall books bound in red 
leather. There was also a tall pedestal with an 
undressed lady on top, and several big pictures in 
gold frames of ladies who wore very few clothes, 
and who sat, looking rather cold, in gardens like 
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"This is my den," said Danvers. "How do you 
like it?" 

"Charming," said Beauty. "But I don't see why 
you want such a big den all to yourself." 

1 don't want it all to myself," said Danvers, 
"but I can't get anybody to share it with me. Per- 
haps one of these days I may get a companion to 
decorate the room." 

He stood looking at Beauty and smiling, with 
his hands in his pockets. 

"Anyhow, it is good to have you here this after- 
noon. You go with the room wonderfully well." 

Beauty turned her face away from the Beast's 
smiling eyes, and said: 

"I thought you were going to give us some tea. 
I am sure Nick is frightfully hungry. Aren't you, 
Nick?" 

"Not frightfully," said Nick. 

For the first time Danvers seemed to notice Nick. 

"I think the boy had better have tea with my 
man, Johnson. They would get on together fa- 
mously." 

"No," said Beauty, in a sharp voice. "No, I 
won't allow that. Nick must stay here." 

"Very well, dear lady !" said Danvers in his soft 
voice. "I only want to make everybody happy. 
That's all." 

He touched a button in the wall, and a moment 
later the door opened very quietly, and a tall young 

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man with a swallow-tail coat, and little brass but- 
tons on his waistcoat, came into the room and said : 
"Yes, sir?" 

"Let's have some tea quickly, Johnson. And 
bring some cakes." 

Nick wondered if Johnson had ever learned to 
smile, and whether he always looked so very solemn, 
as if he were in mourning for somebody, and 
whether he would have said: "Yes, sir" just in 
the same way if the Beast had asked him to bring 
in some crocodiles, or Aladdin's magic lamp, or any 
other thing not very easy to get. He came in so 
sadly with the cakes that Nick thought he must be 
sorrowful at having to give them up. Perhaps he 
wanted them for his own tea. 

"An excellent fellow, Johnson," said Danvers, 
when the man had left the room again. "He never 
speaks unless he is spoken to, and then in the fewest 
possible words." 

"How awful !" said Beauty. "I can't bear silent 
people. They are like walking ghosts." 

"Oh, I allow pretty ladies to talk as much as 
they like," said Danvers, "especially if they have 
singing voices and laughter like silver bells." 

Nick, who was listening very quietly, knew that 
Danvers was thinking of Beauty's voice and of 
Beauty's laughter, and he knew that Beauty knew 
what Danvers meant, for she laughed now as though 
little silver bells were ringing in her throat, and 
said: 

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"What absurd things you say!" 

"I know," said Danvers, who was helping Beauty 
to some sugar, "but it is jolly to be absurd some- 
times, don't you think ? Don't you hate people who 
are never absurd?" 

"Yes," said Beauty, "they make life very dull." 

"And dulness," said Danvers, "is the death of 
life. Adventure, laughter, love, these are the only 
things that make life endurable, and love is the 
greatest of these." 

"And the most dangerous," said Beauty. 

"Dangerous? Why, yes! That is the joy of it. 
Without danger love also becomes a dull thing." 

"Hush!" said Beauty. 

Nick saw that her eyes had glanced in his direc- 
tion, as though warning Danvers to be careful of 
his words. He knew those warning glances which 
Beauty gave when Bristles said "Damitall," or words 
which small boys were not supposed to use. 

Danvers laughed in his throat, and rang the bell 
again, so that the man Johnson came in, as sadly 
as before. 

"Johnson," said Danvers, "will you kindly en- 
tertain this young gentleman with your most 
sprightly conversation, and show him any of those 
interesting things which you may collect in your 
spare time." 

"Yes, sir," said Johnson. 

This time Beauty did not protest, and Nick took 

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hold of Johnson's long, cold hand, and went with 
him into another room, where the man sat Nick 
down in an arm-chair and stood in front of him, 
and winked very solemnly with his left eye and 
said: 

"I suppose you are not old enough to smoke a 
cigarette, sir?" 

"No," said Nick. 

"Ah!" said Mr. Johnson. "But perhaps you 
would not object to me enjoying a little smoke?" 

"No," said Nick. 

Mr. Johnson pulled out a silver case, and took' 
out a cigarette, lighted it, and then, sitting on the 
edge of the table, stared at Nick with solemn eyes. 
This lasted such a long time that Nick became un- 
easy, and shifted in his seat. 

"Do you think Beauty will be very long with 
the . . . " he was just going to say "the Beast," 
when he stopped himself in time, and said "Mr. 
D'anvers?" 

Johnson thought the matter over for quite a while, 
and then he said: 

"And who may Beauty be, young gentleman?" 

"My mother." 

Johnson pondered over this for a good long time, 
and then said: 

"Eh! She looks a beauty. But I don't expect 
she's such a beauty as my master." 
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"Do you think he is a beauty?" asked Nick, much 
surprised. 

"Oh, he is a rare beauty, he is," said Johnson, 
and then he gave another solemn wink with his left 
eye. 

There was no more conversation for some time, 
but at last Nick made another effort to break the 
spell of Mr. Johnson's terrible eyes. 

"Do you think my mother will be long with your 
master?" • 

Johnson thought tlie question out. 

"It all depends," he said at last. "You never can 
tell." 

Nick listemed to the ticking of the big clock on 
the wall. Each tick seemed a minute. He hated 
the Beast worse than ever for keeping his mother 
such a long time. 

"Can you show me anything, please?" he said, 
in a rather desperate attempt to get away from the 
arm-chair in which he was imprisoned under the 
fixed gaze of Mr. Johnson. 

Mr. Johnson was startled by the question. 

He looked round the room, as though searching 
for something, which he might show, but there was 
only a table covered with brown oil-cloth, and a 
horsehair sofa, and three horsehair chairs, and some 
portraits of elderly gentlemen framed in dark oak. 

"There is the Sporting Times, sir, if it is any 
good to jrou." 

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''Do you mind reading some out?" said Nick, 
rather liking the name of the paper, which seemed 
to hint at adventure. 

"Certainly, sir." 

Johnson cleared his throat, and read an article 
on the front page, leaving out the commas and full 
stops. 

Pretty Polly won the thousand pound race in clever 
style and his trainer felt confident that a pull of i8 
lb. with Dandy Dick would enable him to reverse 
the Sandown placings while Samuels was also hoper 
ful of beating Flying Dutchman although Pretty 
Polly had only a poimd advantage with the Lewes 
borse to put against the Sandown beating It was Dandy 
Dick who gave the winner most trouble and evidently 
Flying Dutchman has been over-rested The two 
Frenchmen were prominent for a long way and 
Jeanne d'Arc once raised the hopes of the Comte de 
Valois but retired beaten soon afterward Dandy 
Dick is a very beautiful creature . . . 

"Is it a fairy-tale?" asked Nick at this stage of 
the story. 

Mr. Johnson permitted himself to smile, but hid 
the mistake hurriedly behind his hand. 

"Well, sir, these sporting papers do go in for 
fairy-tales as a rule. I may say that is their lead- 
ing characteristic." 

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THE HOUSE OF THE BEAST 

"I think I will take one of them in/' said Nick, 
"if they are not too expensive/* 

Mr. Johnson showed a trifling agitation. 

"If I may be so bold, sir, I should earnestly ad- 
vise you not to patronize these papers so early in 
life. It is not that the papers themselves are very 
expensive, but the effect of them is — er — rather 
costly, at times.'' 

Nicholas was not very clear as to the meaning 
of these words, but he did not inquire further, for 
at that moment a bell rang with a whirr behind his 
head, and Mr. Johnson put down the paper hurriedly. 

"I expect that's for you, sir," he said, and his 
guess was right, for Nicholas was sent for by 
Beauty, and found her looking rather hot, as though 
she had drunk her tea before it had got cool. 

"Until we meet again," said Danvers. 

He took Beauty's hand and raised it to his lips, 
and then patted Nick on the head and said "Gkx)d 
little laddie," as though he were a dog. 

Beauty was very silent all the way home, and kept 
smiling to herself, as though amused with a secret 
joke, and was very kind and nice with Bristles when 
he came home from the City. Everything seemed 
very happy, until suddenly at supper Bristles said: 

"What did you do this afternoon. Beauty?" 

"Oh, the usual thing," said Beauty, and then she 
turned to Nick and said rather quickly : "You look 
very tired, Sleepy-eyes!" 

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When Nick had assured her that he was not a 
bit sleepy, Bristles said: 

"What do you mean by the usual thing?*' 

"Oh, Nick and I had tea with some friends." 

She turned to Nick again, and said, more hur- 
riedly than before: "I am sure you are ready for 
bed, Mr. Nick.'' 

But Nick was not a bit ready for bed. He was 
wondering why Beauty had said "with some 
friends." Was Mr. Johnson one of the friends ? 

"Which friends?" said Bristles. "Any one I 
know?" 

Beauty suddenly "flared up," as Polly would say, 
and became very angry with Bristles. 

"Surely you don't want to cross-question me as 
to where Nick and I had tea? What does it matter 
who the people were?" 

"Oh, it doesn't matter," said Bristles. "I just 
inquired out of idle curiosity." 

He turned to Nick, and said: "Where did you 
go to tea, old man?'^ 

Nick looked across at Beauty, and there was some- 
thing in her eyes which seemed to speak to him. 
It seemed to him that her eyes said: "Don't tell, 
Nick! don't tell!" 

He got very red in the face, and there was a big 
pain in his heart. He knew that, not even when 
Beauty's eyes said "Don't tell," could he say some- 
thing to cheat Bristles. 

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Then suddenly Beauty spoke: 
- "If you must know, we had tea with Danvers." 

There was a great silence in the room, and then 
at the end of it Bristles said : 

"I thought you had given up that man, Beauty?'' 

He did not say the words angrily, but with a 
queer break in his voice. 

"I do not give up my friends so easily,'' said 
Beauty. 

Nothing else was said about the Beast, but when 
Beauty put Nicholas to bed, he stretched out his 
hands and pulled her head down, and said : 

*1 am glad you told, Beauty, although your eyes 
said 'Don't tell/ " 

She understood him, and a great wave of color 
came into her face. But she laughed at him and 
rumpled his hair, and said: 

"What a fanciful Nick you are!" 

Then she puffed out the candle and went out of 
the door. 

But Nick lay awake for a little while, listening to 
the voices of Beauty and Bristles, which never ceased 
in the next room until he dropped asleep. 



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CHAPTER V 

BEAUTY GOES AWAY 

It always seemed to Nicholas Barton that when 
Beauty went on tour — ^he knew what that meant, 
after questioning Polly until her head ached — it was 
the beginning of the unhappiness which spoiled all 
the great game of life. 

Beauty had been frightfully excited about going 
away, and had danced about the flat singing and 
laughing, while she and Polly packed great baskets 
full of dresses, and while she tried to remember all 
the things which she had forgotten. She was al- 
ways remembering something else which she could 
not possibly do without, and even on the very last 
morning, when the cab was waiting outside the 
street door, she cried out to Polly that she must take 
her manicure scissors and second-best pair of slip- 
pers, and the little silver mirror in which she looked 
at the back of her head. These things had to be 
collected and stuffed into a hand-bag which was al- 
ready bulging with just-remembered things. 

Bristles was strolling about in a moody way, with 
his hands in his pockets, only taking his hands out 
of his pockets to fasten up the baskets and to strap 
up the boxes, and to fetch some of the things which 
Beauty had left in another room. 

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Nick knew that Bristles w^s just as sad as he was 
because Beauty was going away, and that he was 
afraid of the loneliness which would creep into the 
flat when all the baskets had been packed on to the 
cab with Beauty inside. 

It was just before Polly had gone to fetch the cab 
that Bristles spoke of the things that were in his 
heart. It was when he bent down to fasten the last 
box* He gave a great sigh, and said : 

"I hate the idea of this tour of yours. Beauty. 
Even now I wish to goodness you could back out 
of it." 

Beauty was arranging her hat in front of the mir- 
ror. It was a black hat with a little white bird 
perched on the top of it, and Nick had never seen 
such a beautiful Beauty, for excitement had lighted 
the fires in her eyes, and had deepened the colour in 
her cheeks. She laughed at Bristles as she looked at 
him through the looking-glass. 

"It is rather late in the day to suggest that. Be- 
sides, you know we need the money, and that it g^ves 
me a big chance." 

"Hang the money!" said Bristles. "I would 
rather see you starve than nm all the risks of an ac- 
tress on tour." 

He spoke with a sharp pain in his voice, and then 
he strode over to Beauty as she turned toward him, 
and took her by the wrists and said : 
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"Beauty, you promise me to be good — ^and care- 
ful!" 

"Careful of what?" asked Beauty, releasing her 
hands, and putting her hat straight again. 

"Careful of your good name and of mine. You 
know how incautious you are, how your spirit of fun 
and adventure leads you to take risks. ... I am 
afraid." 

"Afraid?" 

Beauty gave a rather shrill little laugh. "Afraid 
of what, my timid Bristles?" 

"I am afraid of letting you go alone among all 
those loose-minded people, in all those theatrical 
lodging-houses where you have no husband to pro- 
tect you, and look after you." 

"Thank you!" said Beauty, very haughtily. "I 
am well able to look after myself." 

"I am not so sure," said Bristles. "Sometimes 
you have not shown yourself able to look after your- 
self." 

He took one of her hands again, and kissed it and 
said: 

"I don't want to play the Puritan, Beauty. I 
know that you have a laughter-loving heart, and that 
it has been dull for you sometimes here, and that I 
am a gloomy dog, unable to give you all the things 
you want, and all the things you ought to have ; but 
I want you to remember my love for you, and little 
Nick, here. When people flatter you, when they are 

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paying you homage, when you are laughing and jok- 
ing after the theatre, think of this little flat here, 
where your man and your boy are waiting for you 
and longing for you." 

Beauty put her hands on her husband's shoulders, 
and bowed her head a little so that her forehead 
touched his lips. 

"You fimny old Bristles!" she said. 

Then she raised her head and smiled into his eyes. 

"I will try to keep on the safe side of the danger- 
line. You need not be afraid." 

Then Polly came in to say the cab was waiting, 
and Beauty gave Nick a great hug, and promised to 
bring him back no end of toys, and then there was a 
great bustle and excitement as the baskets and bags 
were carried down five flights of stone steps. Nick 
carried the smallest of them, feeling very proud of 
his strength as he hoisted it on to his shoulder and 
staggered down the stairway, dropping it only at 
the top of the last flight, so that it rolled easily to 
the bottom. 

^'Drat the child!" cried Beauty, *'I am sure he has 
smashed my best scent bottle." 

She raised her hand as though to smack him, but 
then, seeing that his eyes were beginning to fill with 
tears, she rtunpled his hair and said : 

"It can't be helped. Cheer up, Nick, I shall soon 
be back." 

She bent down and kissed him on the forehead, 
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BEAUTY AND NICK 

waved her hand to Bristles, and in another moment 
was smiling from the inside of the cab, which went 
off with a jerk and took her away to that great ad- 
venture which was called "on tour." 

Bristles and Nick stood looking after the cab until 
it had turned the comer of the street. Beauty did 
not put her head out for a last glance at them. Then 
Bristles gave a big sigh which was something like 
a groan, and put his hand on Nick's shoulder, and 
said: 

"Well, old man, it's time for you to go to school, 
and for me to go to the City. You and I must do 
our job while Beauty is away. We've got to keep 
the pot boiling." 

Nick's lower lip was trembling. A little fountain 
of water seemed to be bubbling up from his heart to 
run out of his e3''es. He could not bear to think that 
Beauty had gone away, and the words which he had 
heard Bristles say made him feel afraid because Bris- 
tles was afraid. It was clear that some great danger 
might threaten Beauty in the adventure of "On 
Tour." She said that she would try to keep on the 
safe side of the danger-line. But supposing she 
stepped on to the wrong side, what then ? Perhaps 
she might be gobbled up by some beastly monster, 
or taken prisoner by some Enemy. Bristles had said 
he was afraid because he would not be there to pro- 
tect her. Protect her from what? Nick would not 
be there either. Neither Bristles nor Nick could help 

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their Beauty in distress. It was this thought more 
than the thought of the loneliness that would be in 
« the flat which made the fountain of water bubble up 
in his heart, and try to run out of his eyes. But he 
turned the tap off with a jerk when he heard Joan 
Darracott's voice calling him through the railing of 
the ground-floor flat. 

"Nick, you will be late for school. And I have 
been waiting for you ever so long. Why has your 
Beauty gone away with so many baskets on the cab? 
Is she taking people's washing home?" 

It cheered Nick up to hear Joan's voice asking so 
many questions which he could not possibly answer 
all together. 

"I'm ready !" he shouted, and he was glad that he 
had gulped back his tears so quickly that Joan could 
not see them. And yet her sharp eyes saw that 
something was the matter with him, for on the way 
to school she said : 

"You look as if you were going to have the 
measles or something." 

"What sort of a look is that ?" asked Nick, trying 
very hard to look as if there were no ache inside 
his heart. 

"A flabby, dabby, babby look," said Joan. 

"Rot !" said Nick. And after that denial he whis- 
tled the merriest tune he could think of. But it was 
not a success. 

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"If I couldn't whistle better than that/' said Joan, 
"I should give up trying." 

*'You can't whistle at all," said Nick. 

So they began one of their friendly quarrels, and 
it was very comforting. 

But Joan Darracott was not always handy to com- 
'fort him with her quarrels, and there were times in 
the flat, especially in the evenings before bed, when 
his heart cried out for Beauty, and he wanted her 
with a great aching want. For it wasn't a bit the 
same thing when Polly tucked him up and said : 

Pleasant dreams and sweet repose. 
Mind the fleas don't bite your toes ! 

Polly was all right in her way. Polly was part 
of the furniture of Nick's life, and he had grown so 
used to her that he could not even imagine a world 
without a Polly. But though he liked the sound of 
her voice, and her way of saying things, which was 
pure Cockney, and though to make up for Beauty's 
absence she cooked him special tarts and let him eat 
more than was good for him (which he liked very 
much), and spared a lot of her own time to play 
"Beggar-my-Neighbour" and "Snap," and generally 
let him win when it was time to go to bed, she did 
not take away his need of Beauty nor fill up the hole 
in his loneliness. Nor did Bristles fill up this great 
gap, though after Beauty had gone on tour he came 
home earlier from the City, and made as many jokes 
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BEAUTY GOES AWAY 

as he could think of, to make some laughter in the 
flat, and invented all sorts of new games, and told 
funny tales over the dinner table when he sat at one 
end and Nick sat at the other, with Beauty's empty 
chair drawn up on the side nearest the door. At 
those dinner-table talks Bristles let Nick ask as many 
questions as he liked, and answered them as simply 
as he could, so that it seemed to Nick as if he were 
as old as his father, or as if his father was as young 
as he was. At least there was not that great wide 
space between them which is generally between a 
grown-up and a small boy, and Nick learned to know 
his father better than he had ever known him before, 
and made many new discoveries. He discovered 
that Bristles hated being Something in the City, and 
that he would much rather have been an engineer on 
a man-of-war, or a cow-boy in the Wild West, or a 
pirate on the Spanish Main. 

But, as he said one day, "when once you become 
Something in the City, you can never be anything 
else." 

Nick made up his mind then and there that he 
would never on any account be Something in the 
City, but he did not like to say so out loud, because 
he did not want to make Bristles feel more sorry for 
himself than he was already. 

He also learned that Bristles had read almost 
every book that had ever been written, except the 
new books, which were no good at all because they 
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were only copies of the old books, and that when- 
ever he felt that he could not bear to be Something 
in the City any longer, because he hated it so much, 
he just took down one of his favourite books, like 
'The Three Musketeers," or "The Cloister and the 
Hearth," or "A Tale of Two Cities," and immediate- 
ly he was happy again, because he seemed to be one 
of the people in the books, going through their ad- 
ventures and having no end of fun. 

"After all, Nick," said Bristles, "it doesn't very 
much matter if one is a poor man, so long as one can 
get good books, for these introduce one to the best 
society in the world, and you can become very 
friendly with all the best fellows that ever lived." 

"Like Hop o' my Thumb, and the Little Tailor, 
and Dick Whittington ?" asked Nick. 

"Yes, all sorts of good chaps like that. Only my 
f^^vorites are fellows like Falstaff, and Prince Hal, 
and Hamlet, and Mercutio, and Don Quixote, and 
D'Artagnan, and Sam Weller, and Quentin Dur- 
ward, and a lot of other gallant gentlemen whom 
you will get to know one of these days, if you are 
fond of reading." 

Another thing which Nick learned about his father 
was that he was very keen on old things — old build- 
ings, and old furniture, and old pictures, and any 
old thing which is kept in a museum. It seemed that 
these old things could tell him tales about them- 
selves. At least, when Bristles took Nick to the 
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BEAUTY AND NICK 

museums, which had become a habit on a Saturday 
afternoon now that Beauty was on tour, he knew all 
about the private life of old leather boots which had 
once belonged to a soldier in the days of Queen 
Elizabeth, and about the adventures of an iron 
helmet which had been worn by one of the Black 
Prince's knights, and all about the love-story of two 
earthen pitchers which had been made when the 
Romans were in England, and, indeed, all about the 
life of thousands of things which had lived in the 
houses of people hundreds of years ago. The idea 
came into Nick's head one day that Bristles must 
have been born with a special kind of memory, so 
that he remembered all the things which had been 
done by his father and grandfather and great-grand- 
father, and by all the fathers that had gone before 
him. And then another idea jimiped into his head, 
that Bristles, whose real name was Nicholas Barton, 
just like his own, was really the same person as the 
Sir Nicholas Barton whose portrait, with a white 
ruff around his neck, and with a velvet doublet cov- 
ered with jewels, hung in one of the great galleries 
which they visited on a Saturday afternoon. Be- 
cause this Sir Nicholas Barton had done most of the 
things which Bristles would have liked to have done. 
He had been a pirate on the Spanish Main, and he 
had fought through great adventures in the Nether- 
lands (wherever they might be), and he had gone 
out to the New World and had fought with Red 
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Indians in a country called Virginia, and afterward 
had come home to write about the things he had seen 
and done. Nick noticed that there was something 
in the face of Sir Nicholas Barton which was like 
Bristles. Bristles had the same straight nose and 
high, bald forehead, and eyes that had a far-away 
look, as if searching for the New World. But there 
the likeness ended, for Sir Nicholas had a brown 
beard and moustache, and Bristles shaved all the 
hairs off his face every time they poked their heads 
up in the night. 

"You are awfully like him. Bristles!" said Nick, 
gazing from the portrait to the living face. 

Bristles looked pleased. 

"Think so, old man? I should like to think so, 
because he was one of my ancestors." 

"What's an ancestor?" asked Nick. 

"One of one's relations a long tim^ ago, from 
whom one gets one's temper, the shape of one's nose, 
the gout, and other little things of that kind." 

Nick pondered over this, and some time after- 
ward delivered judgment. 

"It's rotten to think that some ancestor one never 
knew should make one get into bad tempers when 
one doesn't want to. Perhaps that accounts for it." 

"Accounts for what?" asked Bristles. 

"My getting into bad tempers when I don't want 
to, and Joan Darracott doing all the things she didn't 
ought to do, and Beauty liking the people she ought 
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to hate, and you doing the work which you weren't 
made for. Perhaps if we had had different ances- 
tors it would all have been different." 

"Exactly," said Bristles. "And that's the reason 
why we ought to try as hard as possible to do the 
right things instead of the wrong things, and be the 
right kind of people instead of the wrong kind of 
people, because we are the ancestors of those people 
who will come after us. See?" 

"Yes, but the worst of it is," saifl Nick, "that 
however hard we try, we may be put all wrong by a 
great-grandfather, or some old thing like that." 

"Yes, one's great-grandfather is the devil of a 
nuisance," said Bristles, laughing as though he saw 
a joke somewhere. 

But Nick did not see any joke in that conversa- 
tion, and he was always on the look-out for Sir 
Nicholas Barton in the character of Bristles. 

He found it in small things, such as the bold way 
in which Bristles slashed off the top of his egg at 
breakfast, and in the way he wore a felt hat on the 
side of his head after he came home on Saturday 
afternoon and put off his chimney-pot hat, and the 
way he carried his stick (as though it had been a 
sharp sword) when he went for a walk in the park. 
He also found something of Sir Nicholas Barton, 
the Elizabethan pirate and adventurer, in his own 
character, when he went searching for grizzly bears 
among the trees in the park, and when he pretended 
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that Joan Darracott was a Red Indian princess, and 
fell madly in love with her, and threatened to scalp 
her (with the sharp edge of his school ruler), if she 
did not promise to be his wife. 

"If you touch my hair again," saM Joan Darracott 
(who had not forgotten the loss of a golden hand- 
ful), "I will poke your eyes out with the end of my 
parasol. So there!*' 

"Well, will you promise to be my wife?" asked 
Nick, still brandishing his ruler. 

"I will, if you promise to buy me some chocolates 
with bits of chestnut inside. You know the sort." 

Nick dropped his ruler, and felt in all his pockets. 

"I haven't a single halfpenny !" he said ruefully. 

"Then I won't promise to be your wife," said Joan 
Darracott. "Gk)od-moming." 

And twirhng her ridiculous little sunshade, she 
went off to her music lesson. 

It was that incident which made him suggest to 
Bristles that one of Joan Darracott's ancestors must 
have been like Bloody Mary, of whose alleged cruel- 
ties he had just been reading in a school history 
book which ought to have known better. But Bris- 
tles was not in a mood for talking about ancestors 
that morning. Looking through the letters which 
had just been thrust through the box, he said rather 
anxiously : 

"It's strange there's nothing from Beauty again !" 

During the first two or three weeks of her adven- 
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ture on tour Beauty had sent several letters and 
quite a lot of postcards written in a big scrawly hand- 
writing with crosses after her love to Nick which 
Bristles handed over to him so that he could put them 
to his lips, which was the next best thing (though 
not a very good best) to getting the real kisses from 
Beauty's lips. Bristles read out bits of her letters 
over the breakfast table. 

It is immensely good fun, though frightfully hard 
work. . . . The show is a great success. The Gods 
cheered themselves hoarse after the jewel scene. . . . 
The company is pretty decent on the whole, though 
I must confess that there are some incurable bound- 
ers among us. Valentine St. Clair is absolutely the 
last thing in vulgarity. Fast is not the word for her. 
She exceeds the speed limit all the time. . . . The- 
atrical lodging-houses in north-country towns are 
enough to wring tears of anguish from a laughing 
hyena. Oh, the squalor and the dirt of them! Oh, 
the evil character and wicked ugliness and fiendish 
subtleties of the lodging-house landladies, who would 
cheat a blind widow out of her last mite, and steal the 
gilt off a piece of gingerbread ! . . . We had a merry 
supper-party last night, after the show, and did not 
tumble into bed until the sunlight streamed through 
the windows. I smoked too many cigarettes, and 
have a mouth like a factory chimney. . . . But I am 
tremendously virtuous and as demure as a Puritan 
maid, and there is so much hard work that there is 
very little time for frivolity or — rash adventures. 
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So be easy in your mind. I am getting a great hand 
at Bridge, which we play in the trains from one town 
to another. Yesterday I won fifty shillings, and spent 
it on a new hat, which would capture the heart of a 
hermit if he met it with me in the desert. . . . Give 
my love to Polly, and tell her to feed you up. I miss 
little Nick most frightfully at nights, when I put my 
head on my pillow and have time to think. . . . Dear 
old Bristles, I expect you are glad to have a rest from 
my teasing and my tempers, and all the naughtiness 
which is in this wild heart of mine. I cannot help 
it being wild, can I ? It's how one is bom, and Fate 
seems to drag one along by the hair. . . . 

r Your Loving Beauty. 

Such letters as that, written just like Beauty spoke 
(so that when Bristles read them out Nick seemed to 
hear her voice behind the words and her laugh 
between the sentences), came several days a week 
during the first weeks of her tour, then dropped off 
a little, and then were followed by postcards with 
just a big scrawly line or two, saying: "Off to 
Rugby," or "Going Birmingham to-morrow," or 
"Raining cats and dogs in Leamington." But now 
for more than a week there came neither letters nor 
postcards, so that every morning after the postman's 
knock Bristles said : "It is strange there is nothing 
from Beauty," and the lines which made a crow's 
claw on his forehead became deeper and deeper. At 
night, after Nick had been tucked up in bed, he heard 
Bristles pacing up and down, up and down, like an 
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animal in a cage, and he was not nearly so chatty 
at the breakfast-table the next day, and forgot to tell 
funny stories in the evening when Nick sat at one 
end of the table and he sat at the other, with Beauty's 
empty chair on the side nearest the door. 

At last one Friday evening Bristles said all of a 
sudden^ as though the idea had just jumped into his 
head : 

"Look here, Nick, old man, what do you say to 
going on a surprise visit to Beauty?" 

Nick did not say anything, but gave a great shout, 
and clapped his hands. 

"She's in a place called Canterbury,'* said Bristles, 
and we could run down there to-morrow and spend 
the week-end and get back in time for school and 
work on Monday. How is that for an idea?" 

It seemed to Nick a glorious idea, and the glory of 
it was great when he carried his own little bag to 
the station next morning, alongside Bristles, who 
was carrying a bigger bag, and sat in the comer of 
a third-class carriage with Bristles in the opposite 
comer, and a sailor smoking a clay pipe in the third 
comer, and an old clergyman reading a little black 
book in the fourth comer. The train puffed out of 
the station, and Nick listened to the noise of the pis- 
ton rods making a jerky kind of song, which seemed 
to say, "Hurry up there, hurry up there!" as if the 
train were frightfully anxious to get to Canterbury 
because Beauty was there. Then he looked out of 
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the windows and watched the fields fly past, and lit- 
tle villages from which church spires stuck up like 
nrrows pointing to the sky, and he saw boys and 
girls running down country lanes on their way to 
school, and cows staring up at the passing train, and 
old women standing at their cottage doors like the 
old witches in "Grimm's Fairy Tales," and a thou- 
sand other pictures of life in the sunlight of a sum- 
mer's day, whirling past the carriage windows so 
quickly that his eyes could hardly catch them quick 
enough. The- greatness and the splendor of the big 
world seemed to lift Nick's soul out of his body. 
This was a great adventure ! His spirit went faster 
than the train. It leaped ahead of the train into 
Beauty's arms. The thought of seeing Beauty again 
made him want to shout out and sing, but he kept his 
mouth shut because oi the sailor smoking a clay 
pipe, and winking every time he caught Nick's eye, 
and because of the clergyman, who looked up from 
his little black book to stare at Nick through the 
spectacles on his nose. 

At last the train stopped at Canterbury, and Nick 
walked with Bristles through streets of houses which 
looked like the pictures in one of his fairy-tale books, 
with pointed roofs and windows that bulged out 
over the doorways, and window-panes like green 
bull's-eyes, and walls propped up with great oak 
beams. There were grinning goblins carved in stone 
at the corners of little old churches which had been 

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built between the little old houses, and Nick held his 
breath and opened his eyes as wide as they would go 
when he looked up at a church bigger than any 
church he had ever seen, with great walls like those 
of a giant's castle, and tremendous windows which 
seemed to shut out the light, and sloping roofs al- 
most as high as the clouds. 

''Canterbury Cathedral," said Bristles, "that's 
where Thomas a Becket was murdered by the bad 
knights. Do you remember? But we must find 
Beauty before we see all the sights." 

"Yes, I want Beauty first," said Nick. "How 
shall we find her?" 

Bristles put the bags in charge of an old gentle- 
man who sat in an old chair in the hall of an old 
inn called "The Fleur de Lys," and they set out 
again to find Beauty. She was not easy to find, 
and they lost their way several times in narrow al- 
leys where the houses were so close together that 
people could shake hands with each other out of 
the opposite windows. But at last they came to the 
back door of a building called the Theatre Royal, 
and Bristles said : 

"Perhaps Beauty is here, but if she isn't we shall 
find out where she is." 

Nick made a little prayer in his heart that Beauty 
might be there, for he was getting very tired of 
waiting for her. 

Bristles spoke to a very fat and very grumpy- 
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looking man who sat in a small office reading a pink 
paper, with a pot of beer at his elbow, in case his 
reading made him thirsty. 

"Is Miss Vivian at the theatre?" asked Bristles — 
much to the surprise of Nick, who had expected him 
to ask. for Beauty. 

After a moment's silence the fat man looked up 
from his pink paper and said, "Eh?" 

Bristles repeated his question. 

"She is and she ain't," said the man, and then, 
as if this effort to speak had made him very 
thirsty, he took a big drink out of his pot of beer. 

Bristles spoke to him sharply. 

"Is she here, or is she not here?" 

"She is and she ain't," said the man. "That is 
to say, she is here as long as this week's show is 
here, but she ain't here at the present time, because 
the show don't begin till half past two." 

The man made strange noises in his throat, which 
Nick understood to be his manner of laughing. 

"Can you give me her private address?" asked 
Bristles. 

"Not for quids," said the man. "It's as much as 
my job is worth to give any lady's private address." 

He took up the pot of beer and drained it to the 
dregs, and said "Ah !" when he put it down again, 
as though he felt better. 

"But I am her husband," said Bristles, "and this 
is her little boy." 

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The fat man stared at Bristles and Nick, as though 
he had just seen them for the first time. 

"Oh, you're Miss Vivian's 'usband, and that's 'cr 
little boy? Well, now, 'oo 'd 'ave thought it? 
Blest if It don't surprise me, though I 'ave grown old 
in the theatrical profession." 

Bristles looked very angry. Nick saw that his 
mouth had tightened up, which was always a sign 
of Bristles being angry. 

"Look here, my man," he said, "kindly give me 
Miss Vivian's address, and keep a civil tongue in 
your head." 

The fat man made queer noises in his throat again. 

"My orders is to give no address to no one. Not 
even to 'usbands in search of their wives, not even 
to little boys in search of their muwers." 

Bristles turned on his heel, and said: "Come on, 
Nick. The man is a fool." 

He went a little way out of the courtyard, but the 
fat man called after him: 

"A fool, am I? Well, there's other fools about, 
and / *aven't married an actress with a private ad- 
dress." 

Bristles took Nick's hand, and Nick felt that his 
father's hand had suddenly gone cold. 

"Can't we find Beauty, then?" said Nick. His voice 
trembled, and all the glory of the day departed from 
his spirit. If they couldn't find Beauty everything 
would be spoiled. 

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But Bristles reassured him. 

"We shall find her all right," he said. "She is 
sure to come to the stage door before the matinee. 
Let's go and get a bit of lunch." 

But while they were on their way back to the 
Fleur de Lys to get this bit of lunch, a strange thing 
happened. Bristles was still holding Nick's hand as 
they walked along, and suddenly Nick felt his hand 
gripped so hard that he almost cried out, and he 
was dragged back into the doorway of one of the 
old houses with windows that bulged out into the 
street. He saw that Bristles had become very white 
in the face, as if he felt ill, and his eyes had a 
frightened look in them. 

"Good God!" said Bristles in a queer voice. 

Just as he said that Nick caught sight of Beauty. 
She was walking very slowly along the pavement in 
front of them, with her hand on a man's arm, who 
was the other side of her so that Nick could not 
see his face. Beauty was talking and laughing, with 
her head a little on one side, so that she looked up 
into the man's face. She was in her white summer 
dress made of lace, with a pink petticoat underneath, 
and she wore a straw hat turned up on one side so 
as to show a bunch of roses. She was so beautiful 
that people turned to look at Her as she passed, with 
her frock held up above her petticoat and with her 
high-heeled shoes tripping along the pavement. Sud- 
denly she moved a little on one side, to let a butcher- 
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boy pass, and then Nick saw the man whose arm 
Beauty had been holding. It was the Beast 

Without thinking of the Beast or of anybody else 
in the world but Beauty, Nick slipped his hand away 
from Bristles, darted from beneath the doorway, and 
with a loud cry of "Beauty" ran forward to her and 
clasped her about the waist. 

Beauty was startled. She was so startled that 
for a moment, at the sight of Nick, she became as 
white in the face as the whiteness of her summer 
frock. She gave a little cry of "Nick!*" and then 
stared round in a scared way, so that her eyes fell 
upon the face of Bristles looking out from the 
doorway. It seemed quite a long time that the 
husband and wife stood looking at each other, with- 
out moving or speaking any word. Danvers stood 
on one side. He too had been startled by the sudden 
appearance of Nick. His eyes also had gone search- 
ing round until they had found the face of Bristles 
in the doorway. Now he stood looking from one 
to another, stroking his moustache in a careless way, 
and hiding a little smile beneath his hand. 

"God bless the child !" said Beauty at last. "Where 
did you spring from?" 

She stooped down to kiss him, and all the white- 
ness in her face changed to a deep rose-color. 

"We came in a train from Battersea Park," said 
Nick, "and Bristles and I have been searching for 
you everywhere." 

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"Well, you have found me now/* said Beauty. 

Bristles had come slowly forward, and did not 
seem a bit glad to see Beauty, though he had come 
such a long way to see her. He lifted his hat, and 
said : 

"I am sorry I did not give you warning of my 
visit. Perhaps Nick and I are in the way.'* 

"Why should you be in the way?" asked Beauty, 
with an attempt at gaiety, which failed rather when 
her eyes wandered to Danvers, who still stood twist- 
ing up his pointed moustache. 

At her glance Danvers came forward and said : 

"How do you do, Barton? It is curious that I 
should have come to Canterbury and met your wife 
like this. A delightful surprise." 

"Very curious, and very surprising," said Bristles. 
"Perhaps you will give me an explanation as to 
what brings you to Canterbury while my wife is 
here?" 

He spoke very calmly and quietly, but Nick knew 
by his tightened mouth that he was trying to hide 
his anger. 

Danvers shrugged his shoulders. 

"The Cathedral is very beautiful," he said, "and 
I have a devotion to Thomas a Becket." 

Bristles turned his back on Danvers, and spoke 
to Beauty. 

"Nick and I have not had lunch yet. Have you 
time to join us?" 

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"Yes," said Beauty. "Yes— of course." 

But Danvers stepped between Beauty and Bristles. 

"I am sorry," he said, "but Mrs. Barton has prom- 
ised to lunch with me, I therefore have a prior 
right." 

Bristles swung round and faced Danvers, so that 
the two men looked into each other's eyes. 

"Did I hear you say the word 'right'?" asked 
Bristles very quietly. 

"Yes," said Danvers. 

"In regard to my wife?" asked Bristles. 

"In regard to the lady who has the misfortune 
to be your wife," said Danvers very coolly. 

What exactly happened after that Nick did not 
quite see or understand. He only knew that all the 
world had changed for him, and that great forces 
which had lurked behind the mystery of things sud- 
denly leaped out, naked and terrible, transfiguring 
the man who was his father, and the man whom 
he had called the Beast, and that all the happiness 
which had been in his heart, because he had come 
to meet Beauty, was suddenly emptied out to make 
room for terror. 

As he remembered the scene afterward, as a boy 
and as a man, in strange places and at many odd 
times, in the days and nights, it was the picture of 
Bristles raising a stick which flashed in the sun like 
4 shining sword, and bringing it down with a swing- 
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BEAUTY AND NICK 

ing cut upon the head of the Beast, so that the man's 
forehead was marked with a line of blood, and then 
of two sticks clashing together until both were 
broken, when Bristles and the Beast struggled with 
each other, swaying to and fro, clutching at each 
other's throats, striking with their fists, and then of 
several figures thrusting inwards from a crowded 
circle of staring faces, and tearing the two men 
apart, and lastly of Bristles standing very tall and 
straight without his hat, with a bleeding gash down 
his left cheek, with his fists clenched, with his face 
as white as death, with his eyes burning like fires, 
while a little crowd of men and women bent over 
the body of the Beast as it lay very still upon the 
ground. 

That was all Nick remembered until he sat alone 
with Beauty in a four-wheeled cab, with his face 
pressed against her body, which was shaking with 
sobs. He remembered that she kept on crying ''O 
God ! O God !" and that her tears fell upon his face, 
and that her hands clasped his very tight. He re- 
members now that he spent that night alone with 
Beauty, sleeping in a little room with great oak 
beams across the ceiling, and in a big bed with 
curtains round it. He remembers also that he woke 
up several times in the night and that always he 
saw Beauty kneeling by his bedside with her hands 
outstretched, and her body shaking as though she 
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were very cold. He was not awake enough to speak 
to her, but only just awake enough to remember 
that something terrible had happened, and to be very 
sorry for Beauty and Bristles, and to cry himself to 
sleep again. 

In the morning when the sun streamed through 
the windows and when he sat up in bed, wondering 
for a moment to find himself in the strange room, 
until remembrance came back on swift wings, he 
was frightened to find that Beauty had gone away 
and that he was quite alone. On the quilt which 
covered him was a little white envelope, addressed 
with a few words which he couldn't read in Beauty's 
scrawly handwriting, in pencil. 

Presently Bristles came into the room. He was 
still very white in the face, and there was a red 
mark down his left cheek. When he foimd that Nick 
was alone in the room a queer, frightened look came 
into his eyes, and then he saw the little white en- 
velope lying on the bed. He picked it up, while 
Nick watched him without saying a word, and turned 
it over and over in his hands, as though afraid to 
open it But at last he unfastened it, and after 
reading a few words, let the envelope fall to the 
carpet and stood there with his head drooping, and 
his hands clenched very tight. 

"Where has Beauty gone?" asked Nick. 

Bristles raised his head, and looked at Nick as 
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BEAUTY AND NICK 

he sat up in bed. There was a great pain in his 
eyes, as though something had hurt him very badly. 

"Beauty has gone on tour again/' he said. 

Then he sat down on the bed and put his arm 
round Nick and gave a terrible groan, as though 
the hurt in his heart was more than he could bear. 



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CHAPTER I 

THE COTTAGE BY THE SEA 

In the memory of Nicholas Barton the younger, 
the change from a top-floor flat in Battersea to a 
whitewashed cottage in Barhampton took place sud- 
denly, after a day when the man who had once been 
Bristles, and who was now Father, had come home 
with an awful look on his face and had shut him- 
self up in his study, and not opened the door when 
Nick had knocked at it. It was the same day that 
Polly had put on a black satin dress and had gone 
out early in a four-wheeled cab with Bristles, and 
had come back again with her face all smudged with 
tears. In the kitchen where he was making a rail- 
way station with all his bricks and some of the 
dining-room books, under the care of a servant 
from another flat, lent out for the occasion, Polly 
had flung her arms round him and cried so that 
all her tears fell upon his head (he had to wipe his 
hair afterward on the kitchen table-cloth), and kept 
saying "Oh, my poor poppet! Oh, my poor pop- 
pet!" as though something frightful had happened 
to him. 

He had guessed at once that it had something to 
do with Beauty, who had never come home again 

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from being on tour, and although he pretended to 
go on with his railway station, and was very busy 
with his bricks, he kept his ears wide open to catch 
an3rthing he could hear from the whispered conver- 
sation between Polly and the borrowed servant 

They kept on repeating one word which he had 
never heard before. It was the word "Divorce," 
which seemed to be the frightful thing which had 
happened to him, because every time Polly mentioned 
it she wiped her eyes again, and said, "What's to 
become of the boy, I really can't think," or some- 
thing of that kind, imtil the borrowed servant said 
"Hush!" And then one sentence was spoken by 
Polly which seemed to be even more frightful than 
the other word. 

"The poor master has got his decree nicely and 
the custardy of the child. Oh, dearie Lord, to think 
that it should have come to a decree nicely !" 

"Well, as long as he's got the custardy of the 
child," said the borrowed servant in a voicQ that 
was louder than a whisper, "I don't see that he has 
lost very much. That woman is nothing but a 
creature." 

It was PoU/s turn to say "Hush!" and when 
she saw that Nick's eyes were fastened upon her, she 
got very red in the face and began talking about the 
weather. 

Nick was quite sure that all these queer words 
had something to do with Beauty, and that night 
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when he went to bed — Bristles was still shut up in 
his study — he lay awake quite a long time, trying 
to pretend that Beauty had come back, and was only 
in the next room, and presently would steal in to see 
if he were asleep, and then scold him because his 
eyes were open. But suddenly there was a sharp 
pain in his heart, where a little voice inside him 
said, "It's not a bit of use pretending, because 
Beauty has not come back, and then he stuffed the 
corner of the pillow in his mouth, so that no one 
should hear him cry out, "Beauty ! Beauty !'' nor hear 
the sobs which shook his bed so that the brass knobs 
rattled. 

No one would ever tell him what had really be- 
come of Beauty, not Polly, who told him lies, quite 
different from each other, day by day, nor Bristles, 
who always said, "Beauty is on tour. It is a very 
long tour, Nick, old man, and we must learn to do 
without her, if we can.'* 

"But I can't!" Nick had said, with a howl of 
grief, and often he had cried, "I want my Beauty !" 
until one day Bristles had shouted out quite sharply, 
"Don't! For God's sake, don't. I can't bear it, 
Nick!" 

Then he himself had cried, and the sight of 
Bristles crying — Nick had not believed till then that 
any man could cry — ^had been so frightening, be- 
cause the body of Bristles shook up and down, when 
he put his face down onto his arms which were 

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stretched across the table, that Nick never cried out 
for Beauty again, except when he was quite alone 
with Peter Rabbit, and the Rocking Horse, and other 
private friends. 

The nearest he could get to the truth about Beauty 
was when he asked Bristles a question so suddenly 
that he was taken by surprise. Nick asked it very 
quietly, just as he might have asked a question about 
how things work, or what the moon is made of, or 
why the stars only come alive at night. 

"Is Beauty like that fairy queen we saw, who 
fell in love with an ass?'' 

"Yes," said Bristles, and then he groaned and 
said, "My God, yesf 

Nick ventured another question. 

"Did you kill the Beast that day? You know, 
when ..." 

"No," said Bristles. "Sometimes I wish I had." 

Then, as though he had only just noticed that it 
was Nick who was asking him these questions, he 
gave a great start, and became very pale, and said, 
"God forgive me, I don't mean that! Nick, why 
do you ask such extraordinary questions?" 

"I want to know," said Nick. 

Bristles was silent after this, but every now and 
then his eyes strayed over to the boy's face, as 
though wondering whether he was old enough to 
know. But he still kept up the pretence of Beauty 
being on tour, though Nick had ceased to believe 

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it He did not understand that Nick's mind had 
grown much bigger since that day when they had 
gone to Canterbury together. He did not guess that 
this small boy, who still seemed a baby fellow, had 
puzzled out many little facts and pieced them to- 
gether, so that a shadowy form of truth — ^the truth 
about Beauty — had been built up in his imagination. 
Bristles had no idea that Nick had been searching 
and groping in the darkness of this great mystery 
of his life until with a flash of light it had been 
revealed to him that the man whom he called the 
Beast had stolen Beauty away. And when Nick 
ceased to cry out for his mother, and didn't even 
mention her name, Bristles believed that he was 
gradually forgetting her, and that the agony of 
his childish grief had passed away. It did not occur 
to him that Nick was hugging the memory of his 
mother in the secret hiding-places of his heart, and 
that the scent of her clothes in the wardrobe, the 
touch of the muff she had left behind, the sight of 
the paper-backed novels of which she had read so 
many, the association of a thousand little things 
with Beauty, made him hungry for her, and gave 
him a great ache which nothing could cure. 

Beauty's going away had spoiled the game of his 
life. Nothing was the same as it had been. Even 
Peter Rabbit had a sad look, and he had had his 
last ride on Rocking Horse, and Joan Darracott of 
the ground-floor flat was no longer wiser than he 
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BEAUTY AND NICK 

about the grown-up world, because she knew noth- 
ing of the way in which mothers left their boys. He 
himself was different, because of the great secret, 
and of the mystery that lay behind it. It made him 
hide things from Bristles and Polly and Joan, so 
that often he spoke things which he did not mean, 
and kept his real thoughts shut up in the little cup- 
board of his brain. 

"Why do you sit so still and qu>et in the drawing- 
room, Master Nick?" said Polly 

And Nick answered : 

"I am pretending to be on the magic carpet of 
Bagdad, traveling about the world." 

But really he had stolen into the drawing-room 
not once, but on many days, because when the door 
was shut and when he stooped down to smell the 
faint scent in the cushions of the sofa, Beauty seemed 
to come into the room, and when he shut his eyes 
he could see her as clearly as ever he had seen 
her, sitting there, with a book on her lap, and a 
lighted cigarette between her fingers, and a teasing 
smile on her face. He would steal out of the room 
again, shutting the door very quietly, so as not to 
disturb this dream Beauty, and in the kitchen Polly 
would look up from her ironing and say : 

"What big eyes you have got, my poppet !" 

And he would say : 

"I have been looking at all sorts of magic things." 

But he never told Polly, nor Bristles, nor even 



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THE COTTAGE BY THE SEA 

Joan Darracott, oi how he saw Beauty and the teas- 
ing smile on her face. 

But now after that day when Bristles had shut 
himself up in his study and when Polly had come 
back from some mystery place in a black satin gown 
with her face smudged with tears, almost everything 
changed, as though by a wizard's wand, and the 
only things that did not change were Polly and 
Bristles, and Peter Rabbit, and some of the old 
toys and the old furniture and the old books, which 
were transplanted from the top-floor flat overlooking 
the tree-tops in Battersea Park to the whitewashed 
cottage looking out to the great, lonely sea. 

It was a queer little cottage, and the last of a 
row of six little cottages, all exactly the same, and 
all just as queer. Each of them had a front sitting- 
room looking out to sea, and a back kitchen looking 
out to the river, and the sand-dunes on the other 
side. Each of them had a front bedroom with a 
ceiling so low that Bristles almost touched it with 
his head when he stood up straight, and a back bed- 
room so small that Polly was always complaining 
she could not swing a cat in it, though why she 
wanted to swing a cat in it, Nick could never under- 
stand. Each cottage had a small front garden 
divided from its neighbor by a fence so low that 
Nick could step across it, like Gulliver in the land 
of Lilliput, and at the end of each front garden was 
a wooden gate, not much bigger than a toy gate to 
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a fair-sized doll's house, and ^cycmd that lay a 
patch of grass where doiAiveys browsed, and beyond 
that the broad sands where the children played, and 
beyond that the sea which reached to the end of 
the world, and to the hiding-place of the sun. 

When Bristles told Nick that they were going to 
leave the top-floor flat, it seemed to Nick that the 
whole world was shattering beneath his feet. And 
when some big men came, with beads of moisture on 
their brows, to take the furniture away, he felt like 
a cat whose home is being broken up by some domes- 
tic earthquake, known as *'a move." He understood 
that some of the "things," as Polly called these house- 
hold friends, were going to be sold, and Nick wept 
inwardly for every one of them, and while Polly was 
not looking, kissed good-by to senseless articles, 
like the chair with the wide-embracing arms, and 
the hassock with two ears, and the sideboard with 
the laughing lions, which had been familiar to him 
since his eyes first opened to the world, and had been 
endeared to him, because he had so loved all those 
things to which he had given separate characters 
and personalities. It seemed that his own nature 
was being broken to bits by this destruction of his 
little dwelling place, and for a time he hated Bristles 
and Polly with a fierce and secret hatred, because 
they sent these old friends packing, and superin- 
tended this break-up of the world with such callous 
cruelty. But more agonizing to him than the selling 
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of the furniture was the thought that this going away 
from the top-floor flat meant that he would never 
see Beauty again. For when she wanted to come 
back, how should she know where they were? She 
would come to the door and knock, with that quick 
rat-tat-tat, followed by a dump, which she always 
gave, to let people know that she was coming, and 
there would be no one to answer her, and presently 
the neighbors would tell her that Bristles and Nick 
had gone away, and she might search through the 
whole world and never find them. 

This thought was so terrible to him that he con- 
fessed it to Polly, and when he had told her, she 
put her hands up to her face and wept, and then 
said: 

"My poor poppet! My poor poppet!" 

After that she promised to pin a notice to the 
door with the new address on it, so that if Beauty 
came back she would know where to go. Nick kept 
her to this promise, and after she had written out 
the address of the cottage by the sea, he wrote under- 
neath, in the smallest printed letters he could make : 

"Beauty, come back!" 

And after those words he put three crosses, which 
meant kisses. 

It gave him some comfort when Polly nailed the 
notice to the door, with the heel of her shoe, but 
when the four-wheeled cab came, and the last of the 
luggage was piled on top, and when he stood in 

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the doorway of the empty flat while Polly was call- 
ing for him down below, he gave a little whimper 
of pain, like an animal hurt in a trap, and in his 
heart there was a desolation and despair. Small as 
he was, he knew by a little voice which spoke in 
his brain, that he had left forever in that empty 
flat the spirit of the child whom Beauty had loved, 
and the spirit of Beauty for whom he mourned. 
When he went down the stairs in answer to Polly's 
cry of "Master Nick!" — Bristles had gone to the 
station in advance — he was no longer a child, but 
a small boy with a big secret in his heart. 

Then there had been the parting with Joan Darra- 
cott. That also had torn at his heart strings. For 
Joan and he had had many quarrels together, which 
had made them friends. And he had been glad of 
her teasing, though angry at the time. And in 
her good moods, about once a week, she had been 
very nice and kind, telling him all her secrets, and 
listening to all his new discoveries. He would feel 
very lonely without the girl on the ground-floor flat. 

So he told her through the railings of the garden 
in which she sowed seeds which never came up : 

"Joan,'* he said, "I am going away now. I shall 
be frightfully alone without you." 

But Joan was in one of her bad moods. 

"Good riddance to bad rubbish," she said, digging 
up a piece of earth. He did not understand that she 
was angry with him because he was going away, and 
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that she had howled her eyes out that very morn- 
ing because she knew he was going away. 

Her words seemed like a slap in the face, and 
Nick became very red. 

"Crosspatch !" he said. Then he spoke very 
softly : 

"Perhaps we'll never see each other again. But 
I'll think of you till Fm dead." 

She was startled at that. 

"You are not going away to die, are you?*' she 
asked, letting her trowel drop, and scrtmipling up 
her pinafore with her muddy hands. 

"Going away is like dying," said Nick. 

He put his hand in his pocket, and after some 
fumbling pulled out the same old mouth-organ for 
which they had fought through the railings when 
they had first met. 

"Here is a keepsake for you," he said. 

Joan stared at it, and said very rudely: 

"It isn't a keepsake. It's a mouth-organ. Do 
you think I don't know?" 

Nick let it drop through the railings. 

"Anyhow, I shall leave it with you. I should 
like to think you played your one tune on it. You 
know — ^Three Blind Mice." 

"Pooh !" said Joan, "I could play dozens of tunes 
if I wanted to." 

"Well, anyhow, I've got to go," said Nick, for 
Polly was calling to him from the cab. There was 
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a great lump in his throat when he said, *'Good-by, 
Joan!" 

Joan did not answer. She had become very red 
in the face. Then suddenly she put both hands 
through the railings and caught hold of Nick, so that 
he thought she was in one of her wild-cat moods. 
But she drew him close and put her face up against 
the railings, and kissed him through them. Then 
she began to cry, and while the tears trickled down 
her cheeks, she fumbled in her pocket and pulled 
out a silver thimble. 

"Will that do for a keepsake?" she said, holding 
it out through the railings. 

Nick looked at it doubtfully. \ 

"Well, I can't do needlework," he said. "That's 
girl's work, you know." 

He said it very gently, so as not to offend her. 
But she was offended, for she flung the thimble 
into the road, and said: 

"Don't take it then !" 

Nick ran after it and caught it, just as it was 
rolling into the gutter. 

"I will take it," he said, and he put it into his 
waistcoat pocket just as Polly was becoming so 
impatient that she threatened to go without him. 

So he left the top-floor flat, and as he sat very 
still and quiet in the cab, he felt that he was driving 
away from most of the things that had made life a 
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to cry before Polly that he did not let the tears get 
higher than his throat. 

That night he slept in a strange little bed in a 
strange little room, within sound of the great sigh- 
ing sea, which frightened him. He was glad to 
have Peter Rabbit on the chest of drawers, and 
Joan's silver thimble clasped tightly in his hand. 
And he was glad to know that in a little while 
Bristles would come to sleep in the camp bed near- 
est to the window, so that if Nick woke up in the 
night he would have some one to guard him from 
Anything which might jump out of the darkness 
of this tmfamiliar room. 

Bristles himself had undergone a change in the 
break-up of the top-floor flat. He was not the same 
Bristles as before in his habits and way of life. He 
had, for instance, left off being Something in the 
City, and that made all the difference to him. Be- 
cause now he did not have to leave home early in 
the morning in a chimney-pot hat and black coat, 
and striped trousers creased under the mattress, 
which was the costume worn by people who add up 
the figures of people who have so much money that 
they can't count it themselves. The chimney-pot 
hat, the black coat and the striped trousers had been 
sold, with most of the other furniture, and with 
Beauty's dresses, underclothing, and ornaments. 
Bristles always dressed now in his Saturday after- 
noon clothes with a soft collar, a Norfolk jacket 
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without a button to the waistband, flannel trousers 
without a crease down the middle, and brown boots 
which it was Nick's duty and pleasure to clean with 
brown paste until he could see the image of his own 
face in them . . . Bristles had become a story- 
teller. 

Looking back on this change in Bristle's way of 
life in after years, Nick is ©f opinion that it did not 
happen quite so suddenly as he imagined at the 
time. He believed that Bristles must have been pre- 
paring for a good long while to give up being Some- 
thing in the City, and to take to story-telling. Be- 
cause the first story which was printed in a book 
with his name of Nicholas Barton written in small 
gold letters on the cover — it seemed strange to Nick 
to see his own name staring at him from the book- 
shelf — was ready almost as soon as they had settled 
down in the cottage by the sea, so that he must 
have written it some time before. Perhaps it was 
meant to be a surprise for Beauty, because inside 
the cover, on the first page, were the words "To 
Beauty,'* as though it were a present to her. But 
Beauty had gone away before the printers had been 
quick enough, and Bristles had to keep the book 
himself. 

After that he was always writing books. In his 
memories of this cottage by the sea, the dwelling- 
place of the second part of his life, Nick always sees 
his father most clearly in the front sitting-room 
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with a pipe in his mouth, and a wreath of smoke 
about his head, and a pad of white paper in front 
of him on the table, and a penny bottle of ink, into 
which he dipped his nib, which seemed to suffer 
from an insatiable thirst, and, in his eyes just that 
far-away look, as though searching for the New 
World, which may be seen in the painted eyes of 
Sir Nicholas Barton, his celebrated ancestor. And 
this memory portrait of Bristles, the story-teller, is 
accompanied by the ghost of a small boy sitting at 
the opposite side of the table, with his heels resting 
on the rung of a cane chair, with his elbows dug 
firmly into the red table-cloth (on which were many 
little Mack spots, and one or two big black spots, 
caused by the flourish of the thirsty pen and acci- 
dents to the penny inkpot), and his face bent over 
an open book, of which he turns the pages very 
quietly, so as not disturb the man who is writing. 
This is the ghost of the boy Nick, in the second 
part of his life. Faint ghost sounds and faint ghost 
scents haunt the memory of this scene, and come into 
the picture. There is the sound of a bee buzzing 
about the open lattice window, and the very soft 
murmur of the surf breaking on the sands beyond 
the patch of grass where the donkeys browse, and 
the faint fragrance of seaweed stealing through the 
open window, mixed with the aroma of tobacco, and 
a subtle smell of tar and fishing nets, and a stronger 
perfume of stocks and sweet williams in a honey- 
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jar on the table. The voice of Polly, singing a 
Cockney ballad — it was generally: 

You'd look sweet, upon the seat 
Of a bicycle made for two ! 

— ^breaks in upon the quieter ghost sounds, and 
causes Bristles to groan, and thrust his fingers 
through his hair — and sometimes among these mem- 
ory sounds there is the voice of the Merman — a jolly, 
hearty voice — shouting through the window, "Now, 
you two bookworms, come out and warm yourselves 
in God's sunshine!" 

It was a curious kind of life for a small boy who 
was no longer a child, and who, as tiie years passed, 
became a big boy, older in mind than in body, be- 
cause he lived very much alone, so that his thoughts 
grew old quickly, and who did not have many com- 
panions of his own age, but made friends with men 
and women who forgot how young he was. 

It would have been different if he had been to 
school and plunged into the rough and tumble of 
schoolboy life. But there were two reasons why he 
did not go to school. One was because Bristles was 
still as poor as a church mouse, and the other was 
because Bristles wanted Nick as his companion and 
could not bear the idea of parting with him. 

Bristles was so poor (none of his books was 
ever a success) that sometimes there was hardly 
enough to eat in the cottage by the sea. At least 
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there were days when they had to go on short com- 
mons, filling up the hunger-holes with bread and 
butter and the last bit of honey in the jar, and when 
Polly confessed to Nick that she couldn't even make 
a drop of soup, because she had boiled the old mut- 
ton-bone until it was as white as a rag, and she 
supposed the next thing that would happen would 
be the workhouse for all of them. 

Bristles was so poor that there was a big hole 
in the elbow of his Norfolk jacket and he had to be 
very careful of sitting down in his flannel trousers, 
which Polly had darned and patched until, as she 
said, they were nothing but dams and patches. And 
because Bristles was so poor, Nick grew out of his 
clothes much faster than there was money earned 
for new ones, so that he became sunburnt half way 
up his arms, because his jersey was so short, and 
sunburnt on his knees, because his stockings would 
not pull up so high. It was a joy to him to put 
off these old rags altogether by going to bathe with 
the Merman at the far end of the sand dunes, where 
they were alone with the sea and the sky and the 
wind, so that his body became sunburnt from head 
to foot and he did not feel the need of clothes. 

Bristles was sunburnt too, because, although he 
was always writing books, he was greedy for the 
sun and the wind and he arranged his days in such 
a way that he could get as much as possible. Nick 
was first out of bed in the mornings, at six o'clock, 
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but by the time he had run across the grass and 
said Good-morning to the browsing donkeys, and 
flung his first stone into the sea (which was a kind 
of religious ceremony with him at the beginning of 
the day), Bristles was shaving himself at the open 
window before putting his head out to see which 
way the wind was blowing. Then for an hour be- 
fore breakfast he could tramp along the sands as 
far as the Red Rocks, turning every now and then 
to face the sea and take in great breaths of air, 
and to stare away across the waters, as though try- 
ing to see the New World. 

After breakfast Nick and Bristles would settle 
down to work, Nick to his lessons, which Bristles 
corrected until Nick caught him making big mistakes 
in Latin, which he had forgotten since he had been 
to school, and Bristles to his new book, which some- 
times raced along, and sometimes crawled along, and 
sometimes stopped altogether, with nothing but a 
blank page to show at the end of the morning. The 
afternoons were always holidays, with the Merman, 
the Lonely Lady, or the Admiral, or with all of 
them together at a laughing tea-party under the 
shelter of the tussocky grass above the sand-dunes. 
Then in the evenings, out came the writing block 
and the reading books, and Bristles and Nick roamed 
in separate worlds, but w^re glad to look across at 
each other now and again, and to know that they 
were not alone. Then the light faded from the 
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window panes, and the room was filled with a pearly 
dusk, when Bristles would say, "By Jove, it is get- 
ting dark!*' just as Polly brought the lamp in, with 
the oily fragrance which mixes with the other' 
ghost-smells in the memory of Nicholas Barton the 
younger, now that the cottage by the sea has been 
swallowed up in the swift tide of life. 

The lamp was the signal for supper, at which Nick 
startled Bristles by his vast appetite, and at which 
Bristles astounded Nick by his vaster appetite, be- 
cause the sea air, which had only a little way to 
travel before it came through the open window, put 
a sharp edge upon their hunger, so that even a meal 
of bread and cheese, in the lean days of poverty, re- 
quired no sauce. 

The blinds were never drawn, because the velvet 
darkness of night closed in the windows, and be- 
cause, as another reason, there were no blinds. On 
a moonlight night Nick liked to glance up from 
his book and see the silvery radiance of the sea 
outside, and to hear the swish of the surf upon the 
sands; and sometimes he would sit in the window 
seat with his legs curled up, while Bristles puffed 
at his pipe, and read out some of the books he had 
brought from the top-floor flat of Nick's first home. 

They were "The Three Musketeers," and "Quen- 

tin Durward," and "Hereward the Wake," and "The 

Cloister and the Hearth," which opened to Nick a 

new world of romance more wonderful and more 

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entrancing than the fairy-tales which had first started 
his imagination upon journeys of adventure. 

They were great chums, this man and boy, and 
the man was young in his mind because of the boy, 
and the boy old in his mind because of the man; 
so that they drew close together in comradeship. 
And yet there was always a secret between them 
which each kept in his heart and hid from the other. 
It was the secret of Beauty, whose name never 
crossed the lips of the man, so that the boy was 
afraid to speak of her, and who seemed to have 
been blotted out of the mind of the man, though 
the boy brooded and pondered and yearned, and 
never forgot. 

Often Nick watched his father stealthily, won- 
dering whether he was really happy without Beauty, 
and whether he had really forgotten her. There 
were times when Bristles gave a long-drawn sigh, 
which seemed to quiver up from his heart, when 
his pen ceased to run across the paper, and when 
his eyes stared out of the little window to the great 
sea, as though he saw Beauty's face there in the 
glitter of sunlight or in the gray haze. There were 
nights when he was restless, and when Nick was 
wakened by the sound of a stifled groan, or by the 
quiet tread of his father's feet, pacing up and down 
the little room under the low-beamed ceiling, which 
nearly touched his head. And one day, when Nick 
came into the sitting-room, after a long walk along 
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the dunes, he found his father with his head over a 
photograph which lay on the table before him. As 
Nick came in, he covered the photograph quickly 
with some of his sheets of writing, but not quickly 
enough to hide the smiling face of Beauty; and 
though he called out "Hulloh, old man, back so 
soon?'' his voice trembled a little, and there was a 
strangely drawn look about his mouth, and his eyes 
were moist and shining. It was the only sign by 
which Nick knew that his father still remembered 
Beauty, and after that day Nick never saw the pic- 
ture of the woman whose face still came to him in 
dreams so vividly, so like life itself, that when he 
woke he believed that her spirit had been with him. 
But he never gave a word or a hint of that to his 
father, because of that strange reticence which seals 
the lips of boys, and makes them hide some part of 
their soul from the most comradely of fathers. 

His father was surely the most comradely of 
fathers. They two at least were in closer comrade- 
ship than most fathers and sons. Nicholas Barton, 
the elder, was almost womanly in his love for Nich- 
olas, the younger, so that he was uneasy when the 
boy was away from him, even for an afternoon, and 
jealous of those who took him away. 

It was generally the Merman who took him away, 
but sometmes it was the Admiral, and sometimes the 
Lonely Lady. 

The Merman was the gentleman next door, and 
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before they knew that his name was Edward Framp- 
ton, Bristles and Nick called him the Merman, be- 
cause he bathed at least three times a day in warm 
weather, and lay without much clothing on the sand 
with the sun scorching his body, more like a wild 
man who had come up from the sea than a citizen 
of earthly habits. He had made friends quickly with 
Nick, over the foot-high fence which divided their 
front gardens, and had addressed him on the very 
first morning with a "Hi, young fellow, do you 
know how to swim?" 

"No,'' said Nick. 

At this reply Mr. Edward Frampton thrust his 
fingers through his golden beard, opened his eyes 
very wide, and said, "Well, I never!*' and then 
turned to a brown spaniel which was lying on the 
little lawn, with its tongue lolling out, and said : 

"Jem, my lad, here's a young fellow of handsome 
appearance and gentlemanly demeanor, what doesn't 
know how for to swim ! What do you say to that, 
my friend?" 

Jem did not say anything, and lolled his tongue 
out a little further, but Nick felt intensely humiliated 
before the man and the dog, at not knowing how to 
swim, and felt that he must make an immediate ex- 
planation. 

"I come from a top-floor flat," he said, "quite a 
long way from the sea." 

The tall man with the golden beard, who had 
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blue eyes, and very short, fair hair, and who was 
dressed in a suit of white flannels with white shoes, 
turned to his dog again, and explained the explana- 
tion: 

"Jem," he said, "this young gentleman wishes us 
to know that he came from a top-floor flat very far 
from the sea. That is the reason why he doesn't 
know how to swim. But surely it is no reason at all 
why he should let even a single day go by without 
learning that beautiful art which brings a man nearer 
to Nature than any other human exercise? We must 
teach the young gentleman how to swim, my friend. 
It is our bounden duty, after obtaining his papa's 
permission/' 

As it happened, Nicholas, the elder, did not know 
how to swim either, and this was a great comfort 
to Nicholas, the younger, who felt less shy, and less 
afraid, when they both went together with the Mer- 
man and his wise dog, to the dunes on the other 
side, of the river, where they had the sea and sky 
and sand all to themselves, and where, under the 
guidance of their new friend, they took their first 
lessons in the waves. The Merman was a marvel, 
and Nick watched him with wonder. H« could 
swim on his back, with just his nose out of the 
water, paddling swiftly with his feet, and he could 
swim sideways, with an over-arm stroke, like a 
sea-lion pouncing on its prey (at least, that was 
what Nick thought he looked like), and he could 
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even swim under the water, disappearing for a long 
time, like a submarine, and then coming up in an 
unexpected place, spouting like a porpoise. But 
though he was very tall and strong, so that when 
he stood up on the sand in his bathing dress with 
the water dripping from his golden beard, he seemed 
to Nick like Ulysses must have been, he was very 
gentle and kind, and did not play any tricks to 
frighten Nick, and put one hand under his body, 
and kept his head out of the water, and taught him 
to work his hands and legs, so that very soon Nick 
found, to his own amazement and to his great joy, 
that he could swim too, without swallowing the salt 
of the sea. Nick beat his father by several weeks, 
but after they had both learned they used to go with 
the Merman every day into the waves, and afterward 
sit beside him a little while, when he lay about naked 
in the warm sand, telling wonderful stories of ad- 
venture in foreign lands, and laughing in a tremen- 
dous way when he described the >okes he had had, 
as a young man, with black people on the West 
Coast of Africa, and with yellow people in China, 
and with copper-colored people in the Pacific 
Islands, most of whom had tried to kill him at odd 
times and in odd ways. Nick thought him the most 
wonderful man he had ever met, and just like the 
hero of a boy's book of adventure, and Bristles liked 
him very much, and exchanged tobacco with him, 
and talked with him about black people's religion 

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and their belief in ghosts and devils, which the Mer- 
man seemed to believe in, too. 

"An extraordinary chap!" said Bristles, more 
than once after those conversations on the sand 
dunes. "I can't think why he lives all alone in that 
little cottage next door." 

'*He doesn't live quite alone," said Nick. "There 
is Jem with him." 

"Yes, that's true," said Bristles. 

For some reason or other Polly did not like the 
Merman, who sometimes came in to tea, and some- 
times, in the winter, came in to play cards, after 
supper. She called him "that dreadful man," much 
to the indignation of Nick, who had made a hero 
of him. But Nick knew that there was a mystery 
about the Merman, which was hidden from him by 
Bristles and Polly, who sometimes whispered about 
it, and exchanged queer glances. He became aware 
of it gradually; until the day when he had a good 
fright, and knew that he had stumbled up against 
one of those mysteries which seem to lurk in life 
behind the outward look of things. The first time 
he became aware of it was when the Merman did 
not come out on a hot day for his three baths and 
his sun bath in the sand, nor on the following day, 
nor for six other days. During that time there was 
a great silence in the cottage next door, except some- 
times when Jem barked as though in pain, and when 
all of a sudden there was a tremendous noise, as 
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though the Merman was lifting up his bed and bang- 
ing it on the floor, so that all the china rattled on 
his kitchen sideboard, and all his assegais and bows 
and arrows, and Chinamen's swords, and savages' 
knives clattered as though they had come clashing 
to the ground from the nails in the wall. 

Bristles had been frightened, and Polly had come 
in to say that her heart had jumped into her mouth, 
and then they had all listened to the great silence 
which followed. Bristles had gone next door to find 
out if the Merman were ill, and after a little while 
had come back with scared eyes, saying that he had 
knocked six times at the little front door, but could 
get no answer. 

A week later the Merman came out of his cot- 
tage, a little pale-looking, but quite gay and cheer- 
ful, and without a word as to the reason of his long 
stay indoors. This kind of thing happened at reg- 
ular intervals, about once every three months. Al- 
ways at these times there was a silence next door, 
then the howling of the dog, and then the tremendous 
noise, and then the silence again. 

Nick could not make out the meaning of it all, 
but one day, after the Merman had not come out 
for some time, Nick saw his face at the bedroom 
window. At least, it was an awful caricature of 
the Merman's face, though so distorted and so 
hideous that it was like the face of a wild beast. 
It had bloodshot eyes, and a fierce, haggard stare, 
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and there was something in it that was horrible and 
devilish. Nick felt his blood run cold, and then 
crept into his own house very much afraid. He 
did not tell his father what he had seen. For some 
reason he could not speak of that face at the win- 
dow, which was so like and yet so unlike the man 
of whom he had made a hero. But he had a queer 
belief that the Merman was possessed now and then 
by one of those black men's devils of whom he used 
to speak and laugh while lying on the sand dunes, 
and he had a g^eat pity in his heart for this man 
with the golden beard who once in three months was 
changed into the likeness of a wild beast. And yet, 
when he reappeared again, with more tales of ad- 
venture to tell, with just the same old hearty laugh, 
it was almost impossible to believe that he had been 
under such an evil spell. No one else seemed to 
notice this mystery, except Bristles and Polly, who 
exchanged queer looks, and no word about it was 
mentioned, even by the Admiral and the Lonely 
Lady, who had been the Merman's friends since his 
coming to the cottage by the sea. 



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CHAPTER II 

THE ADMIRAL AND THE LONELY LADY 

It was the Merman who taught young Nicholas 
Barton to swim, and it was the Admiral who taught 
him to sail, and it was the Lonely Lady who taught 
him to draw, and it was all three of them who gave 
him a greater knowledge of life than he could have 
learned from Bristles, and Polly, and his books, and 
his own thoughts. 

For they were all remarkable people, and it is 
strange how Fate had arranged that those little 
whitewashed cottages facing the sea at Barhampton 
should be the dwelling places of the most remark- 
able people in the world, at least, in the opinion of 
young Nicholas Barton. 

The Admiral was hardly less remarkable than 
the Merman, though the Lonely Lady was more 
remarkable than either of them, and most mysterious. 
The Admiral's real name was Captain John Muffett, 
and he had retired from the Merchant Service after 
forty years on the sea as boy and man. The Lonely 
Lady's real name was Miss Mary Lavenham — she 
was about as old as Beauty — and she had come to 
the cottage by the sea because, as she explained very 
frankly, it was cheaper than a mansion in Town, 

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and because, as she also explained very frankly, 
she hated all her relations like the Devil, and had 
given them all the slip, so that they thought she had 
run away with the grocer's young man, who had 
disappeared about the same time. At least that 
was the story she told to the Admiral, and the Mer- 
man, and to Nicholas, the elder, when she came to 
know him, though they told her quite as frankly as 
her ovm frankness that they did not believe a word 
she said, and were quite certain that she was a 
Princess in disguise who had run away from Court 
in order not to marry a fat German Prince with 
gold-rimmed spectacles and a scar down his cheek, 
and a nasty habit of wearing his boots in bed. (It 
was the Merman who invented this explanation of 
the Lonely Lady, and Nick firmly believed that there 
was some truth in it) 

Miss Mary Lavenham was the next-door neighbor 
of the Admiral on one side, and of the Merman 
on the other, and she said that she was ashamed of 
both of them, because her beautiful little garden full 
of flowers, which she had planted with her own 
hands, was bordered by the Merman's disreputable 
grass-plot which looked as if it had the mange, and 
by the Admiral's still more disreputable front yard, 
in which he had fixed up a carpenter's bench, and 
where there was a litter of shavings, rusty screws, 
and nails, and material for the making of model 
boats. 

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Nevertheless, Miss Lavenham was on very 
friendly terms with botli her next-door neighbors, 
and occasionally plunged into their cottages, with- 
out permission, and, unheeding of their passionate 
protests, armed with a dustpan and broom, or with 
a very large duster, in order to indulge in what she 
called a "good old tidy-up." The Merman assured 
her that he hated being tidied up, that it was an 
outrage upon his pagan temperament, and that he 
could hardly sit down in his own room after the 
process had been completed. The Admiral growled, 
swore some very dreadful sea-oaths, and vowed that 
if he did not know how to keep his own house ship- 
shape he ought to have been hanged off the yard- 
arm of his first brig, which was wrecked off the 
Azores. But Miss Lavenham assured them that they 
merely made these remarks to keep up the honor of 
their Sex, and that they were really very grateful to 
her, and that if they weren't, they ought to be. 
After which she retired to her own cottage, which 
was always as clean and bright as a new doU's- 
house, with a collection of the Admiral's socks, and 
with one or two of the Merman's flannel shirts, 
which she darned while she read Tennyson's poems, 
or, as a change, Shakespeare's sonnets, sitting at her 
house-door, with a black cat by her side. After 
that she would put on a pale blue sun-bonnet (she 
generally wore ia butcher-blue pinafore over her 
frock) and with a folding stool slung over one arm, 
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and an easel tucked under the other, set forth to 
paint a picture of boats in the harbor, or shrimp 
catchers on the wet sands, or just a big stretch of 
sea and sky. She was always painting these pic- 
tures, and at first Nick didn't know which was the 
right way up when he looked at them, though after- 
ward he saw into the mystery of them. 

For some time he avoided this Lonely Lady, 
though she did her best to entice him into her cot- 
tage by the promise of piping hot cakes for luncheon, 
or sugary cakes for tea, and always said "Good 
mornings Nick, won't you come into my garden?" 
when he pretended not to see her from the other 
side of the fence. For, in some curious way, she 
reminded him of Beauty, and brought back a great 
pain into his heart, and in another curious way he 
hated the idea of getting friendly with any woman, 
because it seemed to make him unfaithful to the 
one woman who had gone away. Indeed, though 
he became very friendly with Miss Mary Lavenham, 
and talked with her more about the big things of the 
world than with any other friend, he was always on 
his guard lest she might drive out the memory of 
Beauty. And she knew that he was on his guard, 
because often, in later years, when his boyhood was 
slipping into young manhood, she would say : 

"Nick, I know your brain, and I know your heart, 
but you have a little cupboard in your soul where 
all the real self of you hides from me. And that is 
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most unfriendly after all the time I've lavished upon 
your moral and intellectual progress." 

The first time she tried to break down his guard 
was when, a few weeks after his coming to the cot- 
tage by the sea, he went to tea with her, under escort 
of the Admiral, who had taken him for a sail up 
the river, taught him the first lessons in tacking, and 
nmning before the wind, and had then said : 

"Now, my lad, you and I have got to make our- 
selves civil to the kindest-hearted, sweetest-tempered, 
sturdiest, bravest, and j oiliest little lady in all the 
world — and that is Miss Mary Lavenham, who lives 
at No. 4." 

"Have / got to make myself civil to her?" asked 
Nick, with a sinking heart. 

The Admiral (of course he wasn't really an Ad- 
miral, but that was the Lonely Lady's name for 
him) laughed at his woebegone face. 

"My lad," he said, "you'll never get on in this 
world, unless you're civil to the petticoats. For 
whether you're first mate or skipper, or Commander 
of the Home Fleet, it's women can make your life 
Heaven or Hell, and so put it down in your log- 
book, and don't forget." 

Thereupon he grasped Nick firmly by the hand, 
and saying, "I've no doubt your Pa will trust you 
under my flag," led him straight into No. 4, where 
Miss Mary Lavenham was spreading bread and 
butter. 

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She put down the knife, and smoothed down her 
butcher blue pinafore, and smiled at Nick across a 
great bunch of wall-flowers in the middle of the tea- 
table. 

**I am so glad you came," she said. "The Admiral 
is so old, and the Merman is so big, and I am such 
a very Lonely Lady that I have longed for a boy 
to come and make me young again, and keep me 
company sometimes." 

This speech, to which Nick answered nothing, be- 
cause it gave him such a lot to think about, seemed 
to make the Admiral very angry. 

"Old ?" he said. "Did you say I was old, ma'am ? 
Why, I would have you know that there's many a 
pretty girl in port that would be glad to go to 
church with Captain Jack Muffett, if only he had 
the pluck to say the word to one. Old, indeed! 
That's a nice thing to say about a smart young fel- 
low of sixty-five!" 

Having said this with great ferocity, so that Nick 
was afraid that he might stick the table knife into 
Miss Mary Lavenham (it was very close to him), 
he suddenly gave a hearty laugh, and his gruff voice 
joined with the laughter of Miss Lavenham, who 
seemed to think the speech a very funny one. 

"You're not too old to cast a villainous eye upon 

any bit of baggage in a petticoat, that I will admit," 

she said. "And what always makes me wonder is, 

why in the world youVe never been captured and 

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tamed by a she-hussy. How is it you've never got 
married, Admiral? Tell me that, before I give you 
some tea." 

"Bashfulness — shyness — lack of pluck, ma'am,'* 
said the Admiral. "There's many a young lady that 
looked kindly on me — just as you do now — ^but I 
never had the courage to offer my hand and heart 
and the little bit in the Bank. Funny, isn't it?" 

Miss Lavenham seemed to think it very funny, 
and laughed with her head thrown back a little, 
so that Nick could see the laughter bubbling in her 
throat, and then shook her forefinger at him, and 
said: 

"Oh, you wicked old reprobate! Oh, you beery, 
bleary-eyed old Neptune! I believe you have a 
dozen wives in different parts of the world." 

The Admiral laughed at this speech until the tears 
came into his eyes, and then gulped a great mouth- 
ful of hot tea, and after that wiped his mouth on 
a red bandanna handkerchief, and said, "What a lady 
it is ! What a lady !" — ^as if Miss Mary Lavenham 
were the most wonderful woman in the world. 

Just as he said that a big voice at the cottage door 
said: 

"Of course she is a lady. If anybody says the 
Lonely Lady isn't a lady as well as lonely, I will 
strike him to the ground and tread his senseless 
skull under my righteously indignant heel." 

This awful threat, which startled Nick most hor- 
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ribly for a moment, was uttered by the Merman, 
who stood smiling into Miss Lavenham's parlor 
from the little front door, and then said in a wist- 
ful way, while he stroked his golden beard: 

"Of course I won't invite myself to a tea-party 
which isn't my own, but if anybody what is giving 
the tea-party issues a kind invitation, I shall be most 
happy to accept." 

"Come in!" said Miss Lavenham, but Nick, who 
was watching her face, saw that she had become 
rather red, as she bent over the teapot, and he won- 
dered if it was because the teapot was very hot, or 
if it was because the Merman had asked her to 
invite him. 

The Merman had to bend his head very low to 
come in through the front door, and when he was 
inside the room, his head nearly touched the ceiling, 
and he seemed more of a giant than ever. But he 
took up Miss Lavenham' s folding stool, and put it 
down by the side of the tea-table next to Nick, and 
sat down on it, so that he did not seem so tall, 
and then gave a great, big, happy sigh, and said : 

"How nice it is when the Lonely Lady gives a 
tea-party to lonely men who have almost forgotten 
their manners." 

After that Nick watched him closely, to see if 

he had forgotten his manners, but he did not leave 

his spoon in his tea-cup, and he said, "No thank 

you," when Miss Lavenham asked him to take a 

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second piece of cake (though he looked as if he 
wanted a second piece very badly), and he always 
rose a little way from the folding seat when Miss 
Lavenham went from the table to the fireplace to 
get some more hot water, as though he would have 
liked to have helped her, if she had not been too 
quick for him. Half way through the tea. Miss 
Lavenham, who had been making many funny little 
jokes which nearly caused the Admiral to choke (be- 
cause they always came when he was drinking an- 
other gulp of hot tea) and made the Merman smile 
in his golden beard — ^paused with the teapot in her 
hand, and said : 

"You know, I feel a very selfish kind of creature." 

'^Fow selfish?" said the Admiral. "Pooh! Stuff 
and nonsense." 

"Quite absurd!" said the Merman. "As absurd 
as though a fairy godmother were suddenly to ex- 
claim *How unfairylike I am !' " 

"We are all selfish," said Miss Lavenham. "Here 
we are enjoying the society of a small boy who has 
made us all feel very happy, because we have only 
talked to grown-up people for a very long time, 
and we have forgotten that his poor father is miss- 
ing him all the time, and sitting down to a lonely 
tea without him, three cottages away." 

It was that little speech which first broke down 
Nick's guard and made him like Miss Mary Laven- 
ham, although he wanted to hate her — for Beauty's 
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sake. Because all the time he had been thinkkg at 
the back of his head about Bristles, and feeling sad 
because he was left alone. So when Miss Lavenham 
said, "Will you ask your father, Nick, if he will 
join a tea-party half way through, with three queer 
people who are glad to be his neighbors,'* he ran 
off joyfully, and gave the invitation to a rather 
moody Bristles, who was smoking his pipe at the 
sitting-room window with the tea-things untouched 
on the table. 

"HuUoh, old man, I thought you were never com- 
ing back!" said Bristles. 

When Nick gave him the message he looked 
rather alarmed, but Nick reassured him, and said : 

"You needn't feel shy, father. The Lonely Lady 
tells frightfully funny jokes, so that one forgets all 
about one's shyness." 

So Nicholas, the elder, joined the tea-party, and 
in a little while after the cold air he had brought 
in had got warm, Miss Lavenham made some more 
little jokes, and everybody laughed and the tea- 
party lasted such a long time that twilight crept 
into the room and the only light was made by the 
Admiral's pipe. 

Nicholas sat very quietly, listening to stories of 
shipwreck and storms from the Admiral, who said 
one sentence between each puff, and listening to tales 
of savage people in far lands from the Merman, who 
told them like fairy-tales, and listening to remarks 

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from Miss Mary Lavenham, who always found 
something funny to say, and watching all their faces 
in the deepening gloom. It was then that he came 
to the conclusion that these were the three most re- 
markable people in the world, and it was then that 
he guessed that there was some mystery between the 
Merman and the Lonely Lady. Because he noticed 
that the Merman was always looking at the Lonely 
Lady with a queer look of longing in his eyes, espe- 
cially when she was talking to somebody else, or 
moving about the room, so that she did not see him. 
And Nick saw that the Lonely Lady knew quite often 
that the Merman was looking at her (when he 
thought she did not know), and drooped her eye- 
lashes and moved back into a deeper shadow, and 
tried to avoid his look. But he did not think of 
that after the tea-party, when he went back home. 
He thought only of the stories of adventure which 
had brought the great wide world into that little 
room, and of the Lonely Lady, whom he did not 
want to like too much, in case she might make him 
forget Beauty. 

Many tea-parties had taken place on summer after- 
noons and winter afternoons, before a very particu- 
lar one which made him remember Beauty with an 
awakening of his old heart-ache. This particular 
tea-party was given by his father, in honor of an- 
other book which had been born on that day. That 
is to say, the first copy had been delivered from the 
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publishers by the morning post; and it lay on the 
sitting-room table, wrapped up in tissue paper 
through which its name shone in golden letters. 

"Nick," said Bristles — ^the old name was still used 
by Nick for the man whom he also called father — 
"this is my masterpiece, though I say so as 
shouldn't. All that is best in my brain and heart 
lie between those covers, and if I live to a hundred 
I shall never do anything so good." 

*T)o you think it will make any money?" asked 
Nick. "We could do with some, for we are both 
pretty shabby just now." 

Then Bristles confessed, with a glint of pride 
in his eyes, that it had already made a bit of money, 
for the publishers had paid him £150 on account of 
royalties, and the check had come by the same post 
as the book, and was the prettiest bit of paper that 
ever he had seen. 

He pulled out his pocket-book, and took out the 
check, and flourished it under Nick's nose. 

"What do you say to that, old man?" 

Nick whistled. 

"I say! A hundred and fifty pounds! That's a 
tremendous lot, isn't it?" 

"Well, not tremendous, exactly," said Nicholas, 
the elder, with assumed indifference to this amount, 
"but I can reckon it's enough to make ourselves look 
more decent and to buy Polly a new dress, and to 
pay her arrears of wages, and to settle up with the 
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tradespeople, who have been very insolent of late, 
and to leave a good bit over for future need. And, 
by Jove, yes, I think I'll give an extra special tea- 
party to-day, to celebrate the event." 

He went into the kitchen as excited as a boy who 
has won a prize, and interviewed Polly on the num- 
ber of extra special cakes which she could buy for 
five shillings. 

"Five shillings worth of cakes !*' cried Polly. "I 
wouldn't be guilty of such wicked extravagance, and 
all of us as poor as church mice !'' 

"I am as rich as Croesus," said Bristles. "And 
I'm going to be fearfully extravagant, just for the 
fim of the thing, and just for once in a very long 
while." 

"As rich as creases ?" said Polly. "Well, if creases 
make one rich, I must be rolling in money, for I've 
as many creases in my best frock as an old scare- 
crow in the fields." 

While Bristles was laughing with Polly in the 
kitchen, and frightening her by his wild desire to 
spend large sums of money (it was Polly who kept 
at bay the butcher when he demanded instant pay- 
ment for meat which had gone the way of all flesh, 
and it was Polly who threatened to beat the baker 
with her longest broom because he had said "Those 
who can't pay shan't eat"), Nick examined the new 
book on the sitting-room table. He did not think 
much of his father's books. They were not excit- 

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ing like the novels of Jules Verne and Captain Mar- 
ryatt and Alexander Dumas, and secretly he had 
come to the opinion that Bristles could not be a good 
writer, because his books never seemed to earn much 
money. But here was a surprise. There must be 
something in a book which had brought in £150 
before it was published. He was filled with a great 
feeling of pride in his father's achievement. It would 
be good to let the Merman know, the Merman, who 
was rather contemptuous of Bristles as a literary 
man, and the old Admiral, who always had said 
that Bristles would be a great man when the public 
came to know him, and Miss Lavenham, who always 
read his father's books before they went to the 
printers. Nick bent over the volume, and opened 
the cover, with a new respect for his father's work, 
and then he saw four words on the first page which 
gave him a queer little shock. They were the words : 

To the Lonely Lady. 

Nick's heart gave a jump. He remembered that 
the first book which had come from his father's pen 
had been sent out to the world with a different ded- 
ication. He went to the shelf and took out that first 
book, and stared at the first page of it, upon which 
were the words "To Beauty." A great emotion 
stirred within him, and a wave of color swept into 
his face, beneath his sunburnt and wind-bronzed 
skin. This new dedication was like a treachery to 
his mother. It was a proof that his father had for- 
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gottai Beauty and had put her out of his mind for- 
ever. For he had said that in this new book was 
the best of his mind and heart He had said it was 
his masterpiece — ^and he had inscribed upon it an- 
other name than that of the woman who was his 
wife. 

This trivial incident, these four printed words on 
a white page, had an extraordinary and poignant ef- 
fect upon young Nicholas Barton. An overwhelm- 
ing sense of remorse, of shame and of yearning took 
possession of^him, for those words were a sharp 
reminder to him that he also had allowed Beauty 
to slip out of his mind and heart, and that, as the 
years had passed, the image of her had gradually 
faded from his memory, until now, when it came 
rushing back, as though clamoring for his remem- 
brance and for his loyalty. 

He spoke her name aloud, in a whisper, **Beauty !" 

Then Bristles came back and said : 

"Let us gather in our guests from the highways 
and byways, for the banquet is at hand." 

He did not notice that Nick was silent and gloomy- 
eyed, and he went gaily into the little front garden 
to invite Miss Lavenham to tea, and to search for 
the Admiral and the Merman, who had gone for 
a walk along the saftd-dunes. It was an hour later 
when the tea-party began, with an excess of cakes 
which brought forth rebukes from Mary Lavenham 
for such wilful and wanton waste, and words of 
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respectful admiration from the Merman who said 
that his eyes were bigger than another part of his 
anatomy, and hearty laughter from the Admiral, 
who said that he would willingly be shipwrecked on 
a desert island with such a supply of victuals. 
Bristles was in the greatest good humor, and while 
Mary Lavenham poured out the tea, he told them 
the secret of the good fortune that had come to 
him. • Upon this Mary Lavenham nearly dropped 
the teapot in order to clap her hands, and the Mer- 
man rose to his full height with his leacup in his 
hand, and solemnly proposed the health of Eng- 
land's greatest novelist, and the Admiral fastened 
his red bandanna handkerchief to the handle end of 
the toasting-fork, and hoisting it on to the table 
(with its three prongs stuck into a cottage loaf) 
called for three cheers to celebrate such a glorious 
victory in the Empire of wit and wisdom. 

Only young Nick was rather quiet, because he was 
thinking of certain discoveries he had made about 
the three guests at his father's table since that day 
when they had all sat together at Mary Lavenham's 
tea-table, three cottages away. 

During that time, which had slipped quietly along, 
he had been watching and listening, and thinking 
and learning in the company of these four people — 
the Lonely Lady, the Merman, the Admiral and 
Bristles — and he had come to love them all with a 
boyish love and gratitude, which even now, when 
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this story of his life is being written, surges into his 
heart at the remembrance of them. But during those 
years he had learned to know their faults as well 
as their virtues, their folly as well as their wisdom, 
and their sadness as well as their mirth. For each 
one of these people, gathered together by some freak 
of fate in those little whitewashed cottages which 
stood all of a row facing the great sea, had been 
touched by tragedy, and the knowledge of this, 
which came gradually to young Nicholas Barton, 
given to him at odd times in little fragments of self- 
revelation, until all their tales were told, so worked 
into the fibre of his imagination and so colored his 
mental outlook, that at the age when most boys are 
careless and ignorant of the death-traps which lie 
in wait for men and women, lie was conscious of 
tragic perils and temptations, and of the deadly pun- 
ishment exacted for human error, so that he was 
thoughtful beyond his years, and oppressed with the 
sadness which lurks behind the outward gaiety of 
life. 

It was the Merman — Edward Frampton — ^who 
had first brought him face to face with ugly horror, 
for this great splendor of a man, so tall and strong 
and handsome, so courteous and gentle and gay- 
hearted, in his normal moods, was, at certain regu- 
lar periods, degraded into a savage, besotted beast, 
emptied of all his humanity. It was quite a long 
time after Nick had seen that hideous face with 
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bloodshot eyes at the window, before he came to 
know the setret of this change in the man who was 
his hero. It was the sight of a drunken man down 
by the estuary which had first given him the clue. 

"Why does that man stagger about like that?" he 
asked Polly, who was walking with him. 

"The wretch is drunk,*' said Polly, giving the 
hian a wide berth. 

"How does he get drimk ?'' asked Nick. 

"By swilling too much beer, or wine, or spirits,'' 
said Polly. "I can't think how men can make such 
beasts of themselves." 

"Does it make them beasts?" 

"Worse than beasts. Master Nick." 

He pondered over these words, and some time 
later, when he happened to be in the Merman's back 
yard — they were building a rabbit hutch together 
— ^he saw a number of boxes piled up against the 
wall, and each one of them was labelled "Jones and 
Sons, Wine and Spirit Merchants." He counted the 
bottles in the top case. There were twelve of them. 
Then he counted the boxes. There were six. 

"Six times twelve are seventy-two," said Nick. 

"What's that?" asked the Merman, who «vas busy 
with the rabbit-hutch. 

"All those bottles," said Nick. "Did you drink 
all the stuff that was in them?" 

Then Nick wished that he had not asked the 
question, for a strange and dreadful look came into 

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the Merman's eyes, and for a moment the hand 
which was holdmg the hammer trembled so that 
he could not hammer in the nail 

He did not answer the question, but said : 

"Don't you think you had better lend a hand 
with this job, my lad?" 

But at that moment Nick had had a revelation. 
He knew now why the Merman was sometimes 
changed into a different being. He became drunk, 
like the man who had been staggering about the 
riverside. He made a beast of himself by "swill- 
ing" too much wine or spirit. 

It was long after that when Nick became aware 
that this great, strong man looked to him for help, 
and was strangely and terribly eager for his com- 
pany when the craving for that drink came upon 
him. As a small boy he did not understand that 
his comradeship was a restraining influence upon 
the golden-bearded giant, that his innocence, his 
childish imagination, his hero-worship, the touch 
of his small hand, the sound of his voice, had some 
divinity in them which fought against the drink devil 
clutching at the man's throat. But as he grew from 
a small boy into a big boy, some vague idea of this 
was revealed to him. He knew at least that Edward 
Frampton derived some comfort from his company, 
that he felt less afraid of the terror which haunted 
him when Nick was close, and that he was some- 
times wistfully and pitifully anxious for Nick to go 
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a-walking with him. He spoke queer words which 
hinted at these things. 

"Nick, old chum, don't leave me. I want you—* 
badly.^' 

"Let us have one of our long yams together, out 
in the stmshine, Nick. I am scared at the big devil 
Loneliness in that little cottage of mine." 

"If I had a small son of my own, like you, Nick, 
I might have been saved from things which make 
me hate myself." 

One day he called out to Nick from the front 
garden: 

"Come for a stroll, old chum?" 

"I can't!" said Nick. "I have got some lessons 
to do." 

The Merman's face seemed to be clouded by a 
shadow. 

"Give up the lessons for once. I must have you 
with me. I really must." 

*Sim sorry," said Nick. "There's something I 
ought to finish. I'll come to-morrow." 

The Merman's voice trembled when he spoke 
again. 

"Come now. To-morrow will be too late. Come 
now, Nick. I have got a fit of the Blue Devils." 

There was something in his voice and eyes which 
was rather frightening. It was as though his whole 
soul called out to this small boy to save him from 
a great danger. 

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''All right!" said Nick. 

They went oflf to the sand-dunes together, the 
Merman clasping Nick's hand, rather tightly, as 
though he might run away. And during the first 
part of the walk he was quite gay, and told Nick 
the life-story of Francis Drake, and said that he, 
Edward Frampton, had stood on the very spot where 
Drake had first seen the waters of the Pacific, pray- 
ing God that he might sail a ship on that great sea. 

"It is a great thing to have a faith in God," said 
Edward Frampton. *T think it must give a man a 
grand strength and courage, because he believes that 
if God is on his side, all things are possible to him. 
The reason why there are so few great men to-day 
is that faith in Grod is dwindling out of the hearts 
of men. That is bad luck for us." 

This was quite in the style of the Merman, and 
afterward he spoke of his own vagabond life, and 
of the way in which he had never done anything 
worth doing, because he had never faced the diffi- 
culties of life and overcome them, but had always 
taken the easier road, which generally led into a 
quagmire. 

"Funny thing, Nick," he said, "but in this hulk- 
ing body of mine there is no strength of will. This 
right arm of mine is as strong as steel. But at 
the heart I am as soft as putty. How do you ac- 
count for that?" 

"I expect you have got your mother's heart," said 
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Nick, who since certain conversations with Bristles 
about his ancestors was a great believer in heredity. 

The Merman was strangely moved by these 
words, and took off his hat as if he were in church, 

"My mother's heart?" he said. "God bless her, 
she had a heart of gold." 

"Gold is soft," said Nick. 

"That's true," said the Merman, 

As they went on walking, Nick noticed that the 
man kept looking back over his shoulder, as though 
afraid of being followed, or as though some voice 
were calling him. Once or twice he hesitated, as 
though tempted to turn back, but he went on again, 
talking quickly and rather excitedly about his 
mother, who was a queen ampng women, and about 
his father, who had been a General and had fought 
in many battles, and had been a hard, stem man. 

"Do you know, Nick," he said, "I come of a 
very great and distinguished family? Why, I have 
a brother now who knows the King as well as I 
know Captain Jack Muffett, and I have two uncles 
who rule over provinces in India as big as the whole 
of Ireland. Funny, isn't it ? If they saw me to-day 
they would walk across the road, and pretend they 
did not know me. Quite right, too, for I am the 
bad boy of the family." 

He started, as though Something had touched him 
on the shoulder. And although the sun was scorch- 
ing his face, he became quite pale, as though some 

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great fear had taken hold of him. But he clutched 
Nick's hand tighter, and talked faster, and said : 

"Nick, my boy, you have a great future in front 
of you. For you have got a good brain, and great 
qualities of character, and I believe the good fairies 
speak to you and keep away the bad fairies. One 
of these days we shall all be proud of you, and none 
more proud than the Merman, who taught you to 
swim and told you lots of yams, and remembered 
all that was best in his own boyhood when he was 
in your company." 

When he had spoken those words, he stopped dead 
in the way across the tussocky grass on the cliff 
side, and said: 

"I have forgotten something. I must go bade!" 

There was a look of anguish on his face, which 
was very white. He shivered in the hot sunshine, 
as though he was very cold, though beads of per- 
spiration broke out on his forehead. 

Nick clasped his hand. 

"Don't go back!" he pleaded. "Let us sit here 
and tell tales." 

"Oh, my God!" said the Merman. "I must go 
back. Hold my hand tight, Nick, or I must go." 

Nick held his hand tight, but the Merman gave a 
great groan, and said: 

"It's no use. The Devils are at me again. Not 
eyen you can save me this tinie. Chummy." 

He wrenched his hand free and set off at a great 
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pace, like a hunted man, back along the cliff road, 
jumping the boulders, and then running across the 
sands. Nick watched his figure, with a strange won- 
derment, a sense of impending horror. That night 
there was the noise of destruction in the Merman's 
cottage, and the howling of Jem, and for a week 
Jem's master was invisible. 

Well, that was the Merman's tragedy, and the 
knowledge of it was a black cloud behind the sun- 
shine of Nick's boyhood. 

The Admiral's tragedy was not so great, yet it 
was a lesson to Nick of the great tragic spirit of 
fate, which selected some men for Its victims. 

No one who saw Captain Jack Muffett sailing his 
dinghy up the estuary, or making model boats in 
his front garden, or accusing himself of bashful- 
ness to Miss Lavenham, to whom he said the bold- 
est things, would have imagined that this merry 
old man was hiding beneath his merriment a mem- 
ory which haunted him at night, which made him 
stare sometimes out to sea with tears in his eyes, 
which had spoiled all the memories of his seaman's 
life. 

In spite of the tragedy which had ended his 
career at sea, the Admiral was of a simple and 
childlike character, and often his natural gaiety 
helped him to forget the ghost-ship of the White 
Seal. Nick found it easy to make a chum of 
him, because he knew so many things which a boy 

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wants to know, and was very keen about the things 
which a boy likes to do. Miss Lavenham said that 
she did not know which was the biggest boy — ^the 
Admiral or Nick — when they were both busy in the 
front garden carving out a new boat, fitting her up 
with spars and rigging, and making sails out of 
pieces of the Admiral's old shirts, with the help of 
big needles and thick cotton. She often came out 
of her front door to peep at them, or put her head 
through the little front window above her geranium 
pots, to smile at the white-haired old man and the 
fair-haired boy, who were talking very seriously to- 
gether while they were sawing and hammering, plan- 
ing and shaving. She liked to hear snatches of 
their conversation — Nick asking many questions 
about ships and shipping, about storms and ship- 
wrecks, about desert islands and savage tribes, the 
old man telling his yarns as one comrade to another, 
interlarded with scraps of philosophy and high 
morality. 

"It's a great training in discipline and duty — 3. 
life at sea. The fellow that skulks, or the chap who 
is always answering back, is quickly marked down 
by his messmates or the old man." 

Nick had learned by this time that sea captains 
always went by the name of the "old man." 

"We're a rough lot, we seafaring men. We get 
into the habit of using awful language — ^the Lord 
forgive me, I find it hard to forget the bad words 
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when Vm at all put out — ^but there's many a soft 
heart underneath an oily, and, taking us all in all, 
we're honest, hardworking, and God-fearing ruf- 
fians. You see, my lad, when youVe sailing, day 
after day with nought but the sea and the sky around 
you, and with only a leaky ship tmder you, big 
thoughts come into your head, and you keep tiun- 
ing them over, like a plug of 'baccy in your hollow 
tooth. What's the meaning of life? What's the 
meaning of death ? How long have you got before 
God whistles you up aloft? Why, the drunkenest, 
beastliest, laziest lubber that ever signed on at 
Cardiff and jumped the pierhead, as the saying is, 
knows that God stares down at him when he's got 
into open waters, and enters up his sins in the eter- 
nal log-book for the great court of inquiry. That's 
why the seafaring men are very religious, especially 
after they've been making beasts of themselves 
ashore. I tell you what it is, my lad, there's no 
getting away from God at sea. There's nowhere to 
hide." 

"It must be rather awkward sometimes," said 
Nick very solemnly. He was always very solemn 
when the Admiral talked about God, because the old 
man seemed to have had a good deal of private con- 
versation with the Almighty. 

"Devilish awkward," said the Admiral, "especially 
when your conscience is biting you like a snake with 
poisonous fangs." 

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"Can't you get away from God in the cabin?'* 
asked Nick. 

"Not often/' said the Admiral, "because His voice 
comes calling down in the wind. Why, many a 
time I've heard Him calling — 'J^^^k Muffett, Jack 
Muffett, you're a dreadful bad lot, Jack Muffett, and 
I've got my eye on you and don't you forget it' " 

"It's a funny thing," said Nick, "I have never 
heard God speak to me." 

"You aren't old enough," said the Admiral, "and 
you've done no sin, properly so-called. Please God 
you never will." 

"I expect I'll have to," said Nick. "Seems to me 
one must do a bit of sin before one grows old." 

The old man groaned. 

"Why, that's true enough. But let 'em be light 
ones, Nick, not them scarlet-colored ones." 

That was one of the conversations overheard by 
Miss Lavenham, and there were many like them. 
Sometimes she felt called up©n to interrupt these 
dialogues on life and religion, which were getting 
too deep, she thought, for a boy's mental well-being, 
and she would pop her head out of the window and 
say: 

"Would either of you pirates like a hot cake, 
just escaped from the oven ?" 

Or— 

"How about a nip of my fine old lemonade, for 
a thirsty throat?" 

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To which the Admiral would say, with his hand 
to the salute : 

"Why, ma'am, speaking for myself, I should say 
it would be a most unexpected pleasure, and thank 
you very kindly." 

Then to Nick he would say, sotto voce: 

"An extraordinary woman! A delightful, kind- 
hearted creature! If I was a bit younger and you 
was a bit older, she might take her choice of two 
lovers, eh, my lad?" 

Thereupon he would chuckle, and wink at Nick, 
and call him "a sly young dog," and a favorite with 
the ladies. 

Miss Lavenham did not hide from Nick that she 
desired his friendship, and was very happy when 
they two were alone together, in her own cottage, 
where the very floor was scrubbed so clean and white 
(by her own hands) that one might have eaten one's 
meal off it, with great comfort and contentment, 
and where there was an air of dainty elegance within 
these rooms, with their lace window curtains, and 
water-color paintings and china ornaments, and 
chintz-covered chairs, which made the place quite a 
contrast to the bachelor dwellings in the same row 
of cottages. 

Often she would invite Nick in and show him al- 
bums full of sketches which she had made in Paris 
when she was studying art, and photographs of all 
the places she had visited when she was a girl — Rome 
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and Florence and Venice, and other cities of Europe 
— ^and photographs of hundreds of pictures by the 
old masters, as she called them, which she had seen 
in the great picture galleries. 

"You must have been very rich to go about like 
that," said Nick, after one of his visits. 

Mary Lavenham laughed. 

"My father and mother were rich. But that's not 
the same thing, is it?" 

"Almost the same thing," said Nick. "If Bristles 
were rich, I should be rich. Don't they ever give 
you any money?" 

"I never ask for it," said Miss Lavenham. "I am 
far too proud and independent." 

Then she jerked her head up a little, and looked 
very proud indeed. 

"Have you quarrelled with 'em?" asked Nick, 
after a moment's thoughtfulness, and searching for 
the truth with his insatiable desire for knowledge. 

"What a boy it is for asking questions!" said 
Miss Lavenham, and her face flushed so quickly that 
Nick thought he had offended her. 

But, seeing that, she took hold of his hand and 
said, "I will tell you my little story, if you promise 
to keep it secret." 

"I promise," said Nick. 

"Because I don't want everybody to know why I 
am such a very lonely lady," said Miss Lavenham. 

The reason why she was such a very lonely lady 
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was made clear in the story she told, after she had 
shown Nick a photograph of a handsome young man 
in the uniform of an Army officer. 

"That was the man I loved," said Miss Lavenham. 
"He was a very splendid young man, so gay, Nick, 
that it was a joy to hear his laughter, and so brave 
that although he was a very young man he had the 
medal which is given for the greatest bravery." 

"I know," said Nick. "The Victoria Cross." 

"Yes," said Miss Lavenham, "and here it is." 

She went to a little cabinet, and pulled out a little 
leather case, and inside was the bronze medal with 
the words "For Valor." 

She sat with it in her lap, and looked at it with 
shining eyes. 

"One day he asked me to marry him, and of course 
I was very proud and happy, because to marry Dick 
seemed the very best thing in the world." 

"And didn't you marry him?" asked Nick. . 

Miss Lavenham looked up, and laughed at him, 
though her eyes looked as if they had water in them. 

"If I had married him my name would not be 
Mary Lavenham and I should not be a Lonely 
Lady." 

"Why didn't you marry him?" asked Nick. "Did 
he get tired of you?" 

"Bless the boy, what questions he asks!" said 
Miss Lavenham, as sharply as if she had been stung 
by a bee. But then she said very softly: 
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"That was not the reason. It was because my; 
father and mother did not want me to marry him* 
They were very rich, and my Dick was rather poor, 
and they wanted me to marry a man with a big name 
and a lot of money. So what do you think they 
did?" 

Nick could not give a guess. 

Miss Lavenham's voice changed, and her eyebrows 
joined together over her nose. "They whispered a 
lot of evil things about my poor Dick, and they made 
me believe that he was a bad man, who had done 
all sorts of badness which no gentleman should ever 
do. Like a fool I believed them, and sent Dick 
back the little ring which he had given me, and all 
the letters which he had written me, and all the love 
which I had stored up in my heart for him." 

"And what did he do?" asked Nick. 

"He died," said Miss Lavenham, speaking the 
words very softly and quickly. 

She did not tell Nick then how he had died. It 
was only in after years that Nick heard that part 
of the story. But he knew now why Miss Laven- 
ham was a Lonely Lady. She had found out all the 
falsehood of the evil things that had been told her 
by her rich father and mother, and she had never 
spoken to them again, after the time when she had 
uttered words which had left them white and trem- 
bling, and very much afraid of her. She had gone 
to study art in Paris, and afterward had come to 
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THE ADMIRAL AND THE LONELY LADY 

the little cottage by the sea, and now had settled 
down into being a Lonely Lady, painting pictures 
which she sold just well enough to keep her, as she 
said, "poor but proud." 

After that story Nick sat as quiet as a mouse, 
thinking over it He was very sorry for Miss Lav- 
enham. But greater than his pity was the shock, 
something like fear, which came to him with the 
knowledge that a father and mother should speak 
bad things about a good man. His imagination 
shuddered before the vision of such great wicked- 
ness in life. He began to have a secret fear of the 
big world into which one day he would have to 
make his way, on the great adventure of manhood. 
Boy as he was, he shrank back from the unknown 
terrors of evil thoughts and evil things, which lie 
in wait for men on their way through the world. 
Always the memory of his own great tragedy, the 
going away of Beauty, her capture by the Beast, gave 
even to his childhood a sense of peril lying behind 
the outward peace of things, and in his boyhood 
the haunting memory was like a warning of unknown 
dangers, which might, at any time, pounce out upon 
him. He was not sure even of Bristles, nor of Polly. 
If Beauty had gone, why not Bristles? Even Polly 
might be captured by some Beast, in the disguise 
of a butcher, or a fisherman. For Beauty's disap- 
pearance had made all the groundwork of his life 

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insecure, and his little house of knowledge was built 
on shifting sands. 

Looking back on these days, Nicholas Barton 
knows now that Miss Lavenham guessed these un- 
easy forebodings in his heart, and did her best to 
give him courage and strength, to fit him for his 
days of great adventure. When they went on walks 
together in the flower fields of the countryside, 
when she taught him to sketch from nature, as they 
sat together down by the estuary, drawing and 
painting the boats that lay on the mud-banks which 
gleamed like gold in the sun, or when in the long 
winter evenings she helped him with his lessons, and 
read out old tales to him, her talk to him was always 
of the future that lay ahead. 

"One of these days, when you are a man, Nick, 
you will remember those tales of the Greek Heroes, 
and they will be like old songs in your heart, call- 
ing to you to hold your head high in the hour of 
danger or defeat, and to be humble and meek in the 
hour of victory." 

Again — 

"I like a man to be strong, Nick. I like men who 
are not afraid of taking risks, and who do not whine 
when they fail. Every man should try to win the 
medal "For Valor." 

She had queer ideas about the love of men for 
women. 

"When you are a young man," she said, "a 

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woman will come into your life, and catch hold of 
your heart. You must be very careful then, because 
there are some women who when they catch hold 
of a man's heart drag him down, and they rob him 
of all his ideals, and of all his courage, and leave 
him a poor bruised and broken wreck of a man. 
I have seen it many times. So you must take care 
to avoid a woman like that, avoid her like grim death, 
Nick." 

"Perhaps she won't be avoided,'* said Nick, who 
was no longer a child. "What can a man do then?" 

"Run away," said Miss Lavenham. "Run away 
as hard as ever he can, for there is no other way to 
safety." 

These were queer conversations between a woman 
and a boy, but it was Nick's fate to live among queer 
people who talked to him as though he were almost 
of their own age, but just young enough to need a 
little guidance from their wider knowledge. And 
it was for this reason that he was quick to see the 
hint of mysteries about him which other boys of 
his age would not have noticed, and very quick to 
feel the cold touch of the shadow of an impending 
peril. 

It was a sense of peril which came to him quite 
sharply when he read the words on the front page 
of his father's new book : "To the Lonely Lady/' 
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happenings which at this time had made him wonder 
whether there was to be another upheaval of his 
home-life. 

For some time he had been watching his father 
and watching Miss Lavenham, and he had been 
certain that there was a new secret between them 
which they were trying to hide from each other, 
and from the Merman, who was also watching. He 
had noticed, for instance, that his father had be- 
come very anxious to be with Miss Lavenham alone, 
and that he invented all kinds of excuses to get Nick 
out of the way when there was any chance of his 
being alone with her. Some of these excuses were 
so absurd that even Miss Lavenham had laughed at 
them, as, for instance, when he told Nick to walk 
down to the railway station to get the right time, 
and when he asked him to tramp to Whitecliffe — 
a five-mile walk — to buy a pot of honey from an 
old bee-keeper, although he very well knew that 
there was no more honey to be got from that source 
of supply. There were other pretexts made by 
Bristles to get Nick out of the way, and Nick had 
been hurt, and had even found a little water in his 
eyes, at the thought that his father was beginning 
to dislike his company. 

Then he had discovered that Miss Lavenham was 

also inventing ways of being alone with his father, 

so that she might listai, with her chin propped in 

the hollow of her hand, while Bristles read out some 

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of the manuscript of his new book. She invented 
excuses when the Admiral invited her to a sailing 
trip up the estuary, and when the Merman invited 
her to a picnic at Whitecliffe, and Nick was as- 
tonished at these excuses, because in former days 
she had always clapped her hands with joy whenever 
she received such an invitation from the Admiral 
or the Merman. And he knew that some of these 
excuses could not be very true, for after she had 
said that she was too busy with her needlework, or 
too busy with her painting, he found out that she 
had been sitting with Bristles in his parlor or hers, 
until the twilight had crept through the windows, 
and had only hurried in when the voices of the re- 
turning wanderers had warned her of their approach. 
More than once or twice on coming home like this, 
Nick had wondered why his father's face wore such 
a queer look — he had a queer, shining light in his 
eyes, and a queer little smile about his lips — ^and why 
his voice had trembled slightly when he had said, 
"Hulloh, Nick, old boy, had a good time?" He had 
also wondered why the Merman had looked from 
Miss Lavenham's face to his father's face with a 
furtive, watchful, curious gaze, which he tried to 
hide, and why Miss Lavenham was uneasy and self- 
conscious, so that her face changed color, when she 
knew that he was watching her like that. 

He became afraid that the Merman was beginning 
to avoid his father, just like his father was begin- 

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ning to get Nick out of the way, by all sorts of 
excuses. For the Merman no longer came in to play 
cards, and gave up the long conversations which he 
had liked to have with Bristles in a cloud of tobacco 
smoke; and if they met on the sand-dunes, or out- 
side the cottage, or along the road to Whitecliffe, 
the. Merman strode past Bristles with a curt nod, 
which was very different from the old hearty way 
of his former greetings. 

Then one day something happened which alarmed 
Nick as though the cottage by the sea were threat- 
ened by a great tidal wave, which might sweep it 
away. 

It was one afternoon, when he was coming home 
from a long tramp in the country with the Merman^ 
who had been in one of his gay moods and had told 
many good stories of his life as a palm-oil ruffian 
on the West Coast of Africa. They had reached 
the stile which crosses the footpath from Whitecliffe 
to Barhampton, by way of the fields, when suddenly 
the Merman halted, and laid his hand heavily on 
Nick's arm, and said: 

"Slow down a bit." 

Nick slowed down, startled by the sharp tone of 
the Merman's voice, and then a little way ahead, 
under the shadow of the tall trees by the side of 
the stream which runs down from the high land of 
Whitecliffe, he saw two figures. They were Miss 
Lavenham and his father. 

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They were walking very slowly, and presently 
came to a standstill under a tree where a nightingale 
was already beginning to tune up for his evening 
love-song. 

"They are listening to the bird," said Nick. 

"Hush!'' said the Merman, though Miss Laven- 
ham and Bristles were too far off to hear Nitk's 
words. 

At that moment Nick saw his father take both 
Miss Lavenham's hands and raise them to his lips; 
and instantly that gesture awakened some memory 
in Nick's mind, which put sharp pain into his heart, 
even before he had remembered. Then the mem- 
ory grew clear in his mind, like a picture which has 
been hidden behind a dusty pane of glass now wiped 
clean by a sponge. It was a little, clear-cut picture 
of Bristles raising another woman's hands to his 
lips, while he smiled down into another woman's 
face, which was Beauty's. 

The Merman gave a harsh laugh, and Nick look- 
ing up at him, saw that he was very pale, as if 
one of his bad moods were coming on. 

"Let's strike across the fields and take the short 
cut home," said the Merman, and without waiting 
for Nick, he strode away in the opposite direction 
to Miss Lavenham and Bristles. 

Not one other word did he speak on the way 
home, but once he gave a deep, quivering sigh, as 
if there were some agony in his heart 
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Nick himself was not in the mood for chatter. 
He did not ask a single question. And when an 
hour later Bristles came home, whistling a little 
tune, until he said, "Tired out, old man ?" Nick kept 
his head bent over his book, and did not answer. 
For in that hour the idea had come to him that Miss 
Lavenham had caught hold of his father's heart, and 
had made him forget Beauty, whom Nick remem- 
bered as though she had come back to him after 
many years. 



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CHAPTER III 

THE YOUNG LADY WITH LONG LEGS 

The change which had taken place in young Nich- 
olas Barton during those years which had passed 
since he left the top-floor flat in Battersea Park — 
a change not only of body but of mind — ^was revealed 
to him quite abruptly one day when he met a ghost 
of his old life in the brilliant sunshine which dazzled 
on the white promenade at Barhampton and gave a 
rich golden tint to the sands where scores of chil- 
dren were digging castles. It was the holiday sea- 
son, when Barhampton was invaded by many 
families who crowded into the boarding-houses and 
lodging-houses, and who, for three or four weeks, 
lived between sea and shore until the pale faces were 
bronzed almost as deeply as the color qf Nick's own 
cheeks, and then went away with their piles of lug- 
gage, to make way for other families who took the 
vacant rooms. It was the season when the donkeys, 
who browsed on the patch of scrubby grass outside 
the whitewashed cottages, became beasts of burden 
for bare-legged children; when the black and white 
Pierrots set up their wooden stages on the sand and 
gave three entertainments a day, which filled the air 
with music-hall songs, whistled and hummed for the 
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rest of the year by the permanent inhabitants of 
Barhampton, who could not get the tunes out of 
their heads; and when the promenade was a kind 
of human kaleidoscope of shifting colors, as girls 
in striped frocks, ladies with flaming parasols, 
children with toy balloons, dogs with bows in their 
hair, and bald-headed babies in wicker go-carts 
passed up and down between the meal times, when 
there was a little quietude. 

It was the season when Bristles groaned over his 
manuscripts because the music-hall songs came float- 
ing through the open window, taking possession of 
his brain ; when the Merman turned his back on the 
sea and marched into the country-side, to get far 
from the madding crowd, when the Admiral 
carved out his model boats in the back yard instead 
of in his front garden, because he hated being stared 
at by gangs of small children, and when the Lonely 
Lady kept a constant watch upon her flower-beds 
and pounced out at intervals with a whip to chase 
away impertinent and intruding dogs. 

Nick himself liked the holiday season, because the 
crowds gave him an agreeable sense of gaiety and 
life. He liked to hear the shouts and laughter of the 
children on the sands, he envied the boys and girls 
who ran races with each other, on donkey-back, or 
with bare feet, he was irresistibly attracted by the 
black and white Pierrots, whose comic songs and 
pathetic ballads appealed to his sense of humor, and 
to his sentiment. 

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But tliere was another reason why he liked the 
holiday season and the crowds of people who came 
from London, and that reason ^he kept secret He 
had a queer idea that one day he might find Beauty 
among them. His eyes were always busy searching 
for her — looking under the parasols of pretty ladies, 
staring wistfully into the faces of women in striped 
frocks, who sat reading novels in the folding chairs 
with linen canopies, watching those who came out 
of the bathing-machines, with little cries of fear and 
laughter as they put their toes into the water. Some- 
times, though he was unconscious of the fact, the 
searching, wistful eyes of this tall boy with the 
shabby clothes, and the tousled hair, and the deeply 
tanned face, attracted the notice of the pretty ladies, 
and they looked after him as he passed, and seemed 
to find a pleasure in the sight of his tall, slim figure, 
in spite of his shabbiness. 

Once he overheard a lady say as he went by, 
"What a handsome boy !" 

He looked round, not at the lady, but to see what 
boy had excited her admiration. But there was only 
a donkey-boy within sight, and he had a Puck-like, 
goblin face. It did not occur to Nick, even for a 
moment, that he was the boy referred to. As yet 
he had not any self-consciousness in regard to his 
personal appearance, except when his ragged clothes 
sometimes made him ashamed in the company of 
well-dressed people. 

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It was on the promenade that he met the ghost 
of his first life. At least, this face under a pink 
parasol seemed to him like a ghost face, or a dream 
face, stirring vague memories, making his pulse beat 
for a moment, like it did sometimes when he heard 
a strain of music which Beauty had played to him 
in the long ago. 

It was the face of a girl with golden hair plaited 
up into a thick pig-tail. She was rather tall for a 
girl who looked about thirteen years of age, and she 
wore a white frock which was rather short, because 
of her long legs. She was a very elegant girl. 
Her white frock was made of silk, very soft and 
creamy-looking, and she wore a broad-brimmed 
straw hat with a curly white feather in it, and she 
had shoes of shiny leather with high heels and big 
black bows. It was something about the girl's eyes 
and mouth which startled Nick and made him think 
of a dream face. They were brown eyes with 
laughter in them, and there was rather a scornful 
look about the mouth, as if it was in the habit of 
speaking scornful words. The girl was walking 
with a lady of large size, and they stood just in front 
of Nick, staring at a boat far out at sea. But then, 
as if attracted by Nick's gaze upon her, the girl 
shifted her pink parasol, turned her head slightly, 
and looked round so that their eyes met. 

"HuUoh, Joan!" said Nick. 

The words slipped from him suddenly, just as the 
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memory of this face suddenly opened a little cup- 
board in his brain. At this meeting with Joan Dar- 
racott, the girl of the ground-floor flat, a tremendous 
excitement stirred him, so that his heart was beat- 
ing like a sledge-hammer, and a bright light came 
into his eyes. He felt immensely glad. 

And Joan did not seem to know him. At his 
words she gave a look of surprise, and she tightened 
her mouth, and stared at him, up and down, as 
though annoyed that so shabby a boy should pre- 
sume to speak to her. 

It was the lady by her side who answered Nick. 
She was a large lady in height and width, and she 
raised a pair of glasses which she carried on a 
tortoise-shell handle, and stared through them at 
Nick, with hard eyes. 

"Who are you, boy?" she asked, in a most haughty 
voice. 

Nicholas was abashed. He could not understand 
why Joan did not recognize him, because it did not 
occur to him that he had changed as much as Joan, 
since they had last met. 

He stuttered out his answer : 

"I'm Nick. I used to live in the top-floor flat." 

"Nick who?" asked the large lady. "And what 
top-floor flat?" 

Before he could answer, Joan Darracott had re- 
membered. She laughed as though it were a good 
joke. 

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"Oh, yes, mother, don't you remember? I used 
to play with Nick. He was the boy who tore out 
a handful of my hair." 

"Good heavens, child !" said the large lady, gaz- 
ing now at Nick as though he were a dangerous 
young animal. 

But Joan held out her hand — ^it was in a white 
silk glove — ^and said very sweetly: 

"How do you do, Nick? How big you have 
grown !" 

"Have I?" said Nick. 

That was all he could say. After that he was 
quite tongue-tied, because he was suddenly self- 
conscious about his shabby clothes, and overwhelmed 
by the beauty and elegance of Joan Darracott He 
wanted desperately to talk to her, but he could not 
think of anything to say, especially when the large 
ktdy was staring at him so savagely, and he thought 
it would be better to slink away quickly before Joan 
became ashamed of being seen with him. 

"Gkxxl-by," he said, with a queer gulp in his 
voice. He lifted his cap, and, not daring to look up 
into Joan*s face again, went quickly across the sands. 

For the rest of the day he was tremendously 
stirred by this meeting with Joan. It brought back 
with a rush all the memories of his life at Battersea, 
during Beauty's time. He went to the chest of 
drawers in his bedroom and searched for the 
thimble which Joan had given him as a keepsake. 
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He put it in his waistcoat pocket, and wondered 
whether Joan had kept his mouth-organ. How 
changed she was, and yet, how exactly the same 
after one became accustomed to the change! She 
had grown like Alice in Wonderland, but she still 
wore a short white frock with long black stock- 
ings, and her hair was just the same color, only more 
like crinkled gold — ^he wished she had not remem- 
bered so quickly about the handful he had taken — 
and her eyes had the same way of smiling, and her 
mouth tJie same way of tightening up when she was 
vexed ; even two little freckles were still on her left 
cheek, just as when he had teased her about them 
years ago. 

For a few moments Nick was overwhelmed with 
the thought of all the time that had passed since 
he had last seen the girl of the ground-floor flat. 
He counted back four years, five years, six years. 
Good heavens, how quietly they had slipped by! 
And how strange it was that not until he saw Joan 
again did he realize the difference those years had 
made to him and her. It made him feel like Rip 
Van Winkle. Then another emotion took posses- 
sion of him. It was a passionate regret that Joan 
had become too "grand" for him. Before she rec- 
ognized him she had stared at him as though he were 
a beggar boy, or a donkey boy. She had seen the 
hole at his right elbow, the places at his knees which 
Polly had darned and darned. With sudden anger 
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in his heart he wished to goodness she had not come 
to Barhampton with her scornful look and her 
haughty mother. They were both fearfully stuck- 
up .. . 

"What's the matter, old man?" asked Bristles 
at the dinner-table. "Anything gone wrong?" 

"Good Lord, no!" said Nick. 

But Bristles looked at him once or twice in a 
furtive way, as though wondering whether he might 
be ill or upset about anything. 

For three days Nick avoided the sands, and the 
Pierrots, and the promenade, though all the time 
something seemed to tug him in that direction, and 
he had to resist the tug by exerting all his will- 
power. But on the fourth day, when he was sitting 
on the sand-dunes at the other side of the estuary 
quite alone, and far from the crowd, a voice called 
to him: 

"Nick! Nick! Is that you?" 

He turned his head quickly, and sat up in the sand, 
and saw Joan a little way off. Then she walked 
forward slowly, twisting her pink parasol as Nick 
sprang up, and took off his cap. 

"I am glad I have found you at last!" she said. 
"I have been looking for you everywhere." 

"Have you?" said Nick. "Why?" 

He was tremendously surprised that she should 
have been looking for him. 

Joan laughed, as though amused by his surprise. 
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*'One gets so bored having no one to talk to. 
Mother is always lying down and reading novels. 
It's an absurd thing to do when one comes to the 
seaside. Don't you think so?" 

"Yes," said Nick. 

Joan put her head on one side, and looked at 
Nick, up and down, so that he quailed before her in- 
quiring gaze. 

"I suppose you really are Nick? The Nick who 
used to tell me such queer fairy-tales? You are so 
big and different!" 

"I am the same Nick," said the owner of the 
name. "Shall I prove it to you?" 

"If you please," said Joan, as though she did 
not care very much whether he proved it or not. 

He fumbled in his pocket, and pulled out the 
thimble, and held it out on the palm of his hand. 

"You see, I have kept it all these years." 

Joan Darracott stared at the thimble as though 
it might have been a curious insect. 

"How does that common little thimble prove that 
you are Nick?" 

* Why, of course it does !" said Nick, disappointed 
at her forgetfulness. "Don't you remember? You 
gave it me the day I went away, as a keepsake, in 
return for my mouth-organ." 

Joan poked the tip of her parasol into the sand, 
and seemed to be groping back in her memory. 

"Why, yes !" she said at last. "I gave that mouth- 
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organ of yours to a grubby little Italian boy who 
came round with a monkey." 

Nick felt the pang of another disappointment. He 
would have been glad if Joan had treasured the 
mouth-organ in remembrance of their friendship. 
But he put the thimble in his pocket again, and said 
very humbly: 

"Fm awfully glad to see you again, especially as 
you're not ashamed to speak to me.'' 

Joan pretended to be surprised, but she colored 
up a little, because she remembered that she had 
been a little ashamed to speak to him on the prome- 
nade. He looked almost like a fisher boy in his 
ragged old jersey and shabby knickerbockers and 
big clumsy boots." 

"Why should I be ashamed to speak to you, 
Nick?" she asked with an air of injured innocence. 

"Because you are so grand. Like a Princess com- 
pared with me." 

She seemed to take that as a compliment, and 
laughed in a pleased way as she twiddled her pink 
parasol. 

"I wish I were a Princess ! That would be jolly 
fun. As it is, mother has to stay at beastly board- 
ing houses with a lot of old cats spying on one from 
all the chairs in the drawing-room." 

"Old cats? Why do they keep such a lot?" 

"Old frumps," said Joan. 'TDowdy old women 
who cackle at one. Surely you know the kind?" 
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Then she spread out her parasol on the scrubby 
grass and sat down on it, with her knees tucked up. 

'*What do you do with yourself down here?*' she 
asked. "Do you live here all the time?" 

Nick tried to give her in a few words some idea 
of his life, and told her about the whitewashed cot- 
tages and about the Merman and the Admiral and 
the Lonely Lady, whom he called by their real 
names, and about Bristles and his books. 

She seemed to listen with only half an ear, and 
did not seem very much interested. While he was 
speaking she picked up pebbles and flung them down 
the sand bank. But presently she asked a question 
which made Nick's heart beat. 

"What has become of your mother — the lady you 
called Beauty? Is she down here?" 

"No," said Nick. 

"Dead?" asked Joan, throwing another pebble. 

"N6," said Nick. 

Even the bronze on his face was not so deep as 
the wave of color which swept up to his forehead, 
and he could not keep his voice from sounding queer. 
Joan glanced round at him and raised her eyebrows. 

"Why isn't she with you, then?" 

Nick was silent for a moment or two. Then he 
spoke rather hurriedly. 

"She went away. I would rather not talk about 
that, if you don't mind. It — it hurts." 

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"Oh, I'm sorry," said Joan. "I didn't mean to be 
a beast!" 

She seemed really sorry, and Nick liked her for 
that, and was almost tempted to tell her of the way 
in which Beauty's going away had hurt him more 
than anything that had ever happened in his life. 
But he decided to change the conversation. 

"Do you ever make discoveries now?" he asked, 
smiling, to make her forget his previous embarrass- 
ment. 

"Discoveries?" 

"Yes," said Nick. "Don't you remember how 
we used to discover things about life and then tell 
each other?" 

"Oh, I am too old for that now," said Joan, as if 
she were a very old woman indeed. "There's noth- 
ing left to discover — in that way." 

"Why, you don't mean to say you know all about 
life already?" asked Nick. "I have lots of things 
to learn." 

Joan seemed to pity his ignorance. She confessed 
to him, not in humility, but with a touch of arro- 
gance, that she knew quite as much as she wanted 
to know. She knew, for instance, that life on the 
whole was rather boring, especially with a mother 
who was supposed to be delicate, although Joan did 
not believe there was anything the matter with her, 
and who spent half her days lying down, reading 
novels. 

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"But don't you get any fun out of life?" asked 
Nick. 

"Well, I like putting on pretty frocks, and I like 
good things to eat, when I'm hungry, which is nearly 
always, and I like going to theatres and concerts, 
and I like reading books by Charles Dickens and 
Captain Marryatt and Scott and Kingsley and the 
man who wrote 'The Three Musketeers,' and decent 
kind of books like that. Oh, yes, I suppose I get 
a fair amount of fun/' 

"And don't you look forward to big things?" 
asked Nick. "It's the looking forward that makes 
life so exciting. There are sure to be great ad- 
ventures, some of them good, and some of them bad, 
and one never knows what is going to happen to 
one." 

"I know exactly what will happen to me," said 
Joan. 

"Good Lord, do you?" 

"Yes, when I get old enough I shall get awfully 
sick of staying with mother while she lies down in 
the afternoon, and I shall meet a rich young man, 
who will ask me to be his wife, and I shall say 
yes, and marry him, and then I shall have six babies, 
and spend the rest of my life watching them grow 
up, and dressing them in pretty frocks, and smack- 
ing them, and telling them how good / was when I 
was a little girl, and all that sort of thing." 
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"How do you know?" asked Nick. He was as- 
tounded at this foreknowledge of fate. 

"Well, of course I don't know. But I expect it 
will come like that. It generally does.'' 

"But you might marry a poor man/' said Nick, 
and then his face flushed again, because it came into 
his head that when he was old enough he would like 
to ask Joan to be his wife. 

"I know I ought to," said Joan. "All the best 
heroines do in story books. But I don't think I 
shall. I should never be able to dress in pretty 
frocks." 

"That wouldn't matter. You are quite pretty 
enough to do without them. Any old thing would 
suit you." 

Joan was flattered by this compliment, which Nick 
had blurted out with absolute sincerity. She in- 
formed him somewhat later in the conversation that 
he had much improved since she remembered him 
as a small, rude boy in Battersea Park. They talked 
together then of the various books they had read, 
and they were surprised to find that they had both 
read so many books by the same authors. 

"It is funny to think that while we have been 
away from each other all these years, we should 
have been having the same adventures. I mean 
imaginary adventures in books, you know." 

This was from Nick. 

"Well, I don't know that it's funny," said Joan. 
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^'It's what mother calls the long arm of coincidence." 

"What the dickens is that?" 

"Oh, things that happen together by luck. For 
instance, it was the long arm of coincidence which 
brought me here when you were here." 

"Yes, that was luck !" said Nick. 

And yet it was not altogether luck, for there were 
moments during Joan's six weeks* stay at Bar- 
hampton when Nick felt hot prickles all over his 
body, and wished the earth would swallow him up, 
and bemoaned his fate as the impecunious offspring 
of a poor but literary father. For Joan gave him 
clearly to understand that she had better meet him 
on the lonely side of the estuary, and not on the 
promenade side, among the pretty ladies and the 
smart people, and although she said it was because 
she didn't want her mother to interfere with her 
friendship — and her mother was always making a 
fuss about something — Nick believed that it was be- 
<:ause of his shabby clothes, which made her ashamed 
to be seen with him. There were afternoons when 
he waited for her in vain on the lonely side of the 
estuary, because, as she confessed afterward, she 
liad taken a sixpenny seat in front of the black and 
white Pierrots, and enjoyed herself immensely, quite 
forgetful of her promise to meet him on the sand- 
dunes. That hurt him a good deal, not only because 
he had waited for so long and gone home gloomily, 
hut because he had never been able to afford a 
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sixpenny seat, and knew that even if he had pos- 
sessed a sixpence he would not have dared to sit 
beside her in the public gaze, with the hole at the 
elbow of his right sleeve, and Polly's dams at his 
knees. There were times, too, when she came across, 
the estuary in a rather scoffing, teasing mood, and 
deliberately picked quarrels with him, and laughed 
at his ambitions* and day-dreams, which he told her 
with a frank simplicity, wanting her sympathy — ^and 
made him angry because she accused him of being^ 
a bad-tempered fellow, and a boy with country man-^ 
ners, and a big bully, when he ventured to disagree 
with her opinions. 

And yet, in spite of all the humiliation she caused 
him, he could not forego her company. Because 
there were long afternoons when they did not quar- 
rel, and she did not scoff — ^golden afternoons whea 
they wandered along the shore looking for jelly- 
fish, or shells, or shrimps, or seaweed, which grew 
like ferns of many colors ; when they climbed to the 
cliffs, and sat perched on a jutting rock, like sea- 
birds or with their legs dangling over the ledge, 
while they watched the distant ships stealing past 
like ghosts through the pearly haze; when they sat 
together in a little cave of red sandstone which Nick 
had discovered a year before and made his sanctu- 
ary. He had carved his name many times on the 
soft, moist walls, and now he carved Joan's name in 
big, bold letters which would stand the test of time- 
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It was in this cave that Nick found his greatest hap- 
piness^ for sitting there in the deep quietude and in 
the dim, rosy light of this recess in the rocks, with 
a soft stretch of sand at the entrance way, and be- 
yond, the great svmUt sea, seen as in a frame through 
the opening of the rocks, it seemed that there were 
no other beings in the world but they two. Some- 
times Joan's spirit seemed to be melted into tender- 
ness by this lonely little solitude, and sitting next to 
Nick, with her long legs tucked under her white 
frock, her hand would steal into his, and she would 
stay there quite quietly without a word, staring to 
the far horizon with serious brown eyes filled with 
reverie. Once Nick ventured to offer a penny for 
her thoughts, and she gave them, without asking for 
the penny. 

"It is funny how the sea makes one seem so little, 
and of no more use than a shrimp in a water-pool. 
And it is funny how you and I are sitting here to- 
gether, with my hand holding yours and in a little 
while, perhaps, we shall go away from each other, 
and never see each other again." 

Nick said very humbly that he hoped they would 
always know each other, but Joan shook her head, 
and went on telling her thoughts. 

"I sometimes wonder why God made so many 
people in the world, and what's the good of them 
all. We just grow up, and go on living, until the 
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time comes to die, and then it's all over. It's beastly 
to think we've got to die, Nick." 

"It's only the body that dies, isn't it?" asked Nick. 
"Don't you believe in Heaven and all that kind of 
thing?" 

"Oh, yes, I suppose so. Mother says it's best to 
be on the safe side, and that it's a sign of good 
breeding to believe in God, in a moderate kind of 
way." 

"I don't know that it's a sign of good breeding," 
said Nick. "The Admiral — ^I mean Captain Muflfett 
— says that the commonest sailor is often very re- 
ligious, and feels that God is close to him at sea." 

Joan changed the conversation abruptly, which 
was a way she had. 

"I wish to goodness I had been bom a boy! I 
often tell mother it was pretty rotten of her to 
make me a girl." 

"Girls have the best time," said Nick. 

But Joan disagreed with him. It was her decided 
opinion that girls were utterly useless, and that they 
had nothing to do but grizzle and grump because 
they weren't allowed to do anything that boys could 
do. 

"What would you do if you were a boy?" asked 
Nick. 

Joan had her answer ready. 

"I should go out into the world in search of ad- 
venture, and have a splendid time, and make every- 
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body think how brave I was, and earn a lot of 
money, and choose the most beautiful girl for my 
wife, and beat her when she was in a bad temper, 
and do exactly what I jolly well liked." 

Nick, who was lying on his back in the cave, 
laughed so that his body shook. 

**It sounds all right,*' he said, ''but I don't think 
I shall be able to do any of those things. It seems 
to me that no fellow can do what he likes in this 
life. It is life that does what it likes with the 
fellow." 

"Oh, that is a rotten way of looking at things !" 
said Joan. "A man can do what he wants with his 
life. But a girl has to sit still and wait until things 
happen. That's all the difference." 

Nick was silent for quite a long time. Then he 
sat up, and put his hands round his knees, and said: 

"If life will let me, I want to do something pretty 
good one day. Do you think I could, if I had a 
shot at it?" 

Joan looked at him very solemnly. 

"I am sure you could, Nick. You're very strong, 
and you're not really stupid, and if you weren't so 
badly dressed you would be frightfully good-look- 
ing, you know." 

Nick blushed up to his eyes at these words, and 
then laughed uneasily. 
• "Oh, rot!" he said. 

But though he objected to this reference to his 
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looks, he was glad to think that Joan was so sure 
that he could do something good. And in his heart 
that day, as the twilight crept into the cave, and as 
the sea outside was touched with the crimson light 
of the setting sun, he made a vow that he would 
"have a shot" to do something which would make 
Joan less ashamed to walk with him among the 
crowd, and glad, perhaps, to share his honor. For 
the first time ambition lit a little fire in his soul, 
and the boy in him yearned for the activity and 
adventure of manhood. 

That was one of the afternoons when Joan's com- 
pany was a source of happiness. There were other 
afternoons when her mood was less peaceful and 
more exciting, when she was like a wild sprite, 
touched with a little madness, so that he wondered 
at her. She called to him, "Catch me if you can !" 
and was off like a fawn along the sands, so that 
in his clumsy boots he could not keep pace with her 
long legs, and had to stand at last, panting and 
laughing, while she skipped out upon a rock and 
jeered at him. There she unplaited her pig-tail and 
shook her hair free, so that it was like rippling gold, 
and pretended to be a mermaid, peering at the image 
of her face in the mirror of the sea, and singing little 
songs in a high voice. Then she took off her shoes 
and stockings, and walked for a mile or more, wad- 
ing in the waves, until the edge of her frock was 
all wet. Nick paddled with her, though it seemed 
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to him a girl's game, of which he ought to be 
ashamed, and with his boots and stockings slimg 
over his shoulders, and with his hand outstretched 
to hers, he paced through the little waves, wishing 
that life might be always as pleasant as this, with 
Joan holding him fast by the hand, while she 
laughed, and gave little shrieks of fear as the big 
waves came in, and cried out when imaginary crabs 
caught hold of her toes. 

"Why don't you l^rn to swim, Joan ?" he asked. 
"It is much more fun than this. I would teach you 
in no time." 

But Joan, who was a town-bred girl, said that 
paddling was quite good enough for her, and that 
she could not bear the idea of undressing in the 
open air, with all the world looking at her. 

"There is nobody here but me," said Nick, "and 
I would not look at you until you were in the water." 

But Joan refused the offer. 

"One must draw the line somewhere," she said, 
and she drew it very definitely at the lace edging of 
her white frock, which was a great disappointment 
to Nick, because as she would not bathe he could 
not bathe, and he yearned for the water like a young 
sea-lion. 

So one afternoon followed another, and Joan was 
never quite the same girl on any afternoon, so that 
Nick was never sure whether she would be sweet- 
tempered or quarrelsome, dreamy or wild, scoffing 
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or tender, and so that he found her wonderfully per- 
plexing. Her coming to Barhampton created a tre- 
mendous disturbance in his life, which was not al- 
together pleasant and painless. For he could not 
settle down to his old pursuits, and his studies in 
the mornings and evenings became farcical because 
all the words he read had no meaning to him, and 
he went through whole chapters without understand- 
ing a single paragraph. The remembrance of Joan's 
beauty, of her teasing smile, of her impudent, mock- 
ing words, of her swift transitions of mood, came 
between him and his books. It was as though her 
coming to Barhampton had set his whole being on 
fire, or had touched him with some magic spell 
which made his pulse beat more quickly, sent the 
blood through his veins with a rush of new vitality, 
and made all his senses strangely acute and impres- 
sionable, so that he seemed to see more vividly, to 
hear more intensely, to smell with nostrils that quiv- 
ered at the faintest fragrance. Even his sense of 
touch was so stimulated that sometimes, when Joan's 
hair blew across his face, or when she put her hand 
on his sleeve, or when she leaned her head upon his 
shoulder as they sat together on the sand-dunes or 
in the cave, his body vibrated as though with a cur- 
rent of electricity. It was as if his whole being had 
been awakened into a new life, and his spirit and 
body lifted up by a wonderful exhilaration. He was 
surprised and a little frightened by this intensity 

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of physical and mental consciousness, and though It 
was joyous at times, it was accompanied always by 
a kind of irritability or excitability which was almost 
painful in its effects. He became so silent at home 
that Bristles and Polly were both alarmed about 
him, and he was short-tempered .with them both 
when they inquired tenderly about his health, hating 
himself afterward for his lack of self-control. 
Mary Lavenham also noticed the change in him, 
and suspected the cause of it, for one day she asked 
him, quite suddenly and abruptly, whether he had 
made a friend of any girl in the neighborhood. For 
a moment he was tempted to lie to her, but the 
frankness of her eyes and the tenderness of her 
smile saved him from that humiliation. He told 
her about Joan, and asked her if he might bring 
her into tea one day. 

"Why, that will be splendid !" said Mary Laven- 
ham, as though she longed to make the acquaintance 
of Nick's friend, and she pretended not to notice his 
self -consciousness by launching into a description of 
the campaign of cooking which she would put in 
hand at once, in order to produce cakes worthy of 
a young lady from London. 

Then she asked anothfr question which made the 
color sweep into Nick's face. 

"Does your father know about the Princess 
Joan?" 

That was an awkward question, for Nick was con' 

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scious of a certain guiltiness in concealing the arrival 
of Joan from Bristles. Time and time again it had 
been on the tip of his tongue, but for some reason 
which he could not explain, he had not revealed the 
secret of his solitary walks across the estuary, from 
which he had returned late for tea. He was con- 
scious that between him and Bristles there had 
grown up an invisible barrier which separated them, 
but this seemed to him because of the secret between 
his father and Mary Lavenham, which was always 
at the back of his mind, as a haunting and disturb- 
ing thought. Indeed, for the first time in their lives 
there was a lack of candor between the father and 
son who had been all in all to each other, because 
Bristles shirked his son's eyes for some reason of 
his own, and Nick hid his inmost thoughts with the 
shy jealousy of adolescence. So when Mary Laven- 
ham asked the question, "Does your father know 
about the Princess Joan?" he stuttered out a few 
words about his own private affairs wl>ich had noth- 
ing to do with anybody else. 

Mary Lavenham laughed at him, and shook her 
head, and put her hand upon her shoulder. 

"You know you are talking nonsense, there, Sir 
Nick. Hasn't your private iiappiness or your private 
unhappiness anything to do with the man who has 
been your best comrade all these years, and who 
worships every hair on your head? Come, come!" 

For some reason Nick could hardly keep tears out 
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of his eyes, though he had grown too big for childish 
tears. 

"My father does not care for me Uke he used to 
do/' 

Then looking very straight at Mary Lavenham, 
he said : 

"He is more interested in other people now." 

Miss Lavenham seemed to understand his mean- 
ing, for she drooped her eyes before his gaze, and 
her face flushed very deeply. 

"You will always be first in your father's heart," 
she said, rather nervously. "But you are not so 
greedy as to want all his love, Nick?" 

He did not answer that, but sat staring at the 
pattern of her little carpet, moodily. It seemed to 
him that Miss Lavenham had by those words con- 
fessed that his father loved her too, and the idea 
that his father should love any woman but Beauty, 
whom he had first loved — even this woman who had 
been very splendid to Nick with her fine frankness, 
her fellowship, and her laughing jollity — was intol- 
erable to his imagination. Oh, it was a hateful idea 
that one day Beauty might come back and find an- 
other woman in her place. It waS an idea which 
upset the balance of his boyish morality, and dis- 
turbed the foundations of his belief in loyalty and 
love. For always he had clung to the vague but 
unfading hope that Beauty, who had gone away 
suddenly, would come back suddenly, always her 
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ghost walked with him, always in the cottage by 
the sea he had kept, as it were, a vacant chair by 
the hearthside, for the errant mother who, when 
she was tired of wandering, would return to these 
two people who had waited for her. 

He could not explain these things to Mary Lav- 
enham, and he did not know that she read them in 
his eyes and that they caused her to draw back from 
the pleadings of a father who did not guess the 
reason of her hesitations. . 

The tea-party in Miss Lavenham's cottage was 
not a success as far as Nick was concerned. Joan 
had accepted the invitation and had come in her 
best clothes and with her best company manners, 
which made Nick feel more shabby than ever, and 
utterly boorish. She wore a blue silk frock, tied 
up with pink bows, and white silk stockings with 
patent leather shoes, so that even Miss Lavenham 
was abashed by this grandeur and said : 

"My dear, you should not have put on such finery 
for a cottage tea ! I can only give you home-made 
cakes, you know." 

But Joan smiled very sweetly, and said in a 
slightly patronizing voice: 

**I am sure this cottage is perfectly sweet, and 
it is so quaint to have tea in such a tiny room." 

Then she asked Miss Lavenham how many sc;r- 
vants she kept, and was very much surprised when 
she learned that Miss Lavenham was not only her 
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own mistress but her own servant, and ordered her- 
self about, and gave herself a day off occasionally, 
and answered herself back when she was cross. 

"Doesn't it make your hands rather rough?" 
asked Joan. 

"It makes them honest hands," said Miss Laven- 
ham, and she held them out laughingly, and said, 
"I am proud of them, because they are not too lazy 
to do a woman's work." 

"How weird!" said Joan. "Mother thinks it is 
so unladylike to do housework. She is proud be- 
cause she has never even made her own bed." 

Mary Lavenham rubbed the side of her nose, 
which was a funny little habit she had when she 
was vexed with something. 

"I am afraid your mother and I would disagree 
with each other," she remarked, and then, as though 
she had been a little bit impolite to her visitor, she 
laughed and said: 

"Of course I know I am not quite a respectable 
person, and I feel very much honored that a young 
lady of fashion should visit my humble dwelling." 

"I am sure I am delighted," said Joan. 

Nick was rather abashed when his father strolled 
in to tea and was duly introduced to Joan by Miss 
Lavenham, who called her "Princess Joan of Bat- 
tersea Park." It was obvious to Nick that Miss 
Lavenham had told Bristles about her before the 
tea-party, because he did not seem at all surprised 

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to see her, and knew her real name of Joan Darra- 
cott. 

**I remember you quite well," he said rather 
nervously. "You were the little girl who used to 
pick up the things Nick dropped from the balcony/' 

Then the Merman came in, and after him the Ad- 
miral, so that it was quite an extensive tea-party, 
and soon all but Nick were talking away as gaily 
as possible; as if it were a great event to have a 
visitor. The Merman behaved to Joan with great 
deference, and called her "Princess," and "Your 
Royal Highness" as he handed her the cakes, and 
was more cheerful and amusing than Nick had seen 
him for some time. Only once or twice did a shadow 
come over his face as Mary Lavenham exchanged 
private kind of smiles with Bristles, and even then 
he tried to get back to his old friendliness with 
Bristles, and kept passing him the bread and butter, 
as though to show there was no ill feeling. 

The Admiral was in quite his best form, and 
told a number of sea stories, and made Joan open her 
eyes wide with wonder when he described the pecu- 
liar ladies who had honored him with their friend- 
ship in his younger days. One of them was a Queen, 
of an island in the Pacific, who had fallen in love 
with him, because as he afterward learned, she 
thought he would be very tender to eat. Another 
was a copper-colored lady, who dressed in a neck- 
lace, and who desired to worship him as a god, be- 
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cause he smoked a cutty pipe and wore gold 
ear-rings for the sake of his eyesight. Then there 
was a lady who wished to be his mother-in-law, and 
who ordered him to be beaten on the soles of his 
feet until he died, because he would not consent to 
marry her eldest and ugliest daughter. Fortunately 
he was rescued in the nick of time, by the skipper 
and crew of the Sea-mew from Cardiff. 

"I assure you, ma'am," said the Admiral, turn- 
ing to Joan, "that I have had many hairbreadth es- 
capes from matrimony. Even now I do not feel 
quite safe." 

Hereupon he looked over to Miss Lavenham, and 
winked prodigiously, and seemed surprised at the 
laughter which went round the table. Only Nick 
was rather silent and tongue-tied. For some reason 
he was ill at ease, and wished that he had not 
brought Joan to this tea-party. It gave him a queer 
pain to see her laughing and chatting with these 
friends of his, ignoring him completely. She was 
excited by their attention to her, and her cheeks were 
flushed and her eyes shone with a bright light so 
that she looked prettier than he had ever seen her 
before. But some worm gnawed at him. It seemed 
to him a kind of outrage that she should be taken 
possession of like this by other people. She had 
been his secret. She had been all his when they sat 
together in the cave, or on the sand-dunes. It was 
horrible that he had to give her up to others, and 
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sit out in the cold, estranged from her because these 
grown-ups monopolized her interest. For the first 
time in his life he knew the pang of jealousy, and 
there was a rage in his heart. 

A few days after that tea-party, he had Joan 
all to himself again in the little cave which they 
had made their hiding place, but the happiness which 
gave an enchantment to this hole in the rocks, so 
that in its twilight there seemed to lurk all his day 
dreams of the beautiful things that were waiting 
for him in life, so that its sandstone walls were 
clothed with magic tapestries, woven out of his 
imaginings, so that this girl in the white frock, sit- 
ting with her knees tucked up, was a creature of 
mystical loveliness, fragrant with the odorous per- 
fumes of all life's sweetness, touched with the 
glamor of divine maidenhood, mysterious, baffling, 
and elusive in her nature as the secret of life itself — 
was a little spoiled by the dread knowledge that it 
was the last of these golden hours he would have 
with her alone. On the following day she would 
go back to London and leave him to his loneliness. 
It was that sense of future loneliness which weighed 
down his spirit. 

*7oan," he said, "I don't know what I shall do 
without you.'^ 

He spoke emotionally, but Joan answered in a 
light-hearted way. 

''Exactly what you did before I came, Nick." 
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"That's impossibk. Nothing will be the same." 

Joan laughed, with her face to the sea. She had 
made her two hands into a telescope, and was squint- 
ing through them at a ship on the horizon Une. 

**I am sure I shan't take anything away with me. 
The cliffs will stay where they are, and this cave 
will still be here, and the sands will still be there. 
Won't they?" 

"No," said Nick. 

She was surprised by his emphatic denial, and 
half turned her head to say: 

"Why not?" 

"Because after you have gone this cave will be 
emptied of — of all that makes it worth coming to. 
When I come here alone, I shall only see your ghost 
sitting here — not your real self." 

"Good gracious !" cried Joan, "I hope you won't 
find my ghost here. You make me feel quite creepy, 
you quaint boy." 

"I live a lot with ghosts," said Nick, in a low 
voice. He was thinking of Beauty's ghost which 
had always seemed close to him. "Sometimes they 
make me feel less alone." 

Joan pulled her knees up higher, and clasped them 
tighter, and put her pointed chin down upon them. 

"It's funny to think I shall be back in London to- 
morrow," she said presently. "I shall think of the 
sea when I hear the traffic swishing through the 
streets." 

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"Is that all you will think of?" asked Nick, hop- 
ing that she would think of him a little. 

"And I shall think how jolly glad I am to get 
back again, so that I can borrow some books out of 
the library, and go to the theatre with mother, when 
she's tired of lying down. A holiday is all very 
well, but one gets awfully sick of it, don't you 
think?" 

"I'm sorry you haven't enjoyed yourself," said 
Nick, dismally. 

"Oh, but I have!" said Joan. "Still, enough is 
as good as a feast . . . And now I must be 
going." 

"No, don't go!" said Nick. 

She had jiunped up, and was smoothing her frock 
down, but she was startled at his voice, and at the 
queer look on his face, which had gone white, even 
in spite of its tanned skin. 

"Don't you feel well?" she asked. 

"No, I feel rotten. I hate to think that this is 
your last afternoon here. Perhaps when you go 
outside the cave I shall lose you, always." 

"Oh, I expect I shall see you in London," said 
Joan cheerfully. "Everybody comes to London. 
It's the only place where there's anything to do.'* 

She stepped out of the cave, and stood there, 

framed in the entrance way of the rocks, with the 

sea behind her. From the twilight of the cave Nick 

gazed at her, this creature of light, whose hair shone 

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like crinkled gold, whose white frock was glamor- 
ous in the sunshine. 

"Aren't you coming?" she called out, and with- 
out waiting for him, ran down to the smooth sands. 

"Poor empty cave!" said Nick, in a queer, low 
voice. Then he followed her and at the estuary 
said good-bye to her, according to the rule she had 
made. It was tea-time, and there were few people 
about There were only two old boatmen near them, 
leaning against a pile of timber, and some children 
going homeward with their pails. 

Joan held out her hand. 

"Good-by, Nick!" 

She glanced up into his face with her laughing 
eyes, and then said: 

'Thanks awfully. You have been frightfully 
decent." 

He could not say good-by. He held her hand 
tighter than he knew, and then he stuttered out a 
few words, in a gruff, jerky way. 

"Look here— do you mind? — Give me a kiss. I 
— ^I want it more than anything. For remembrance." 

"If you like," said Joan. 

She held up her face to him, and he kissed her on 
the cheek, very lightly and quickly, as though afraid. 

"Silly boy !" she said, and as though to show him 

how to do such things, she put her hands upon his 

shoulders, and kissed him on the lips. Then she 

gave a fimny little laugh, and sped away, leaving 

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him alone, overcome by a strange faintness, as 
though for a moment his senses had swooned. 

She turned, on the other side of the estuary, to 
wave her hand to him, and he answered with his 
cap. Then she disappeared behind one of the wind- 
shelters, and he felt, suddenly, as though there were 
a great emptiness in his heart, and a tremendous 
loneliness about him. Boy as he was, he knew the 
desolation of love, the pain of it, the agony of sep- 
aration, the death-throes that lie in the first farewell. 

He strode home moodily, and tried to hide his 
heart-ache. But by a glance from his father's eyes, 
by the kindly way in which he put his hand on his 
shoulder and said, "Well, old man?" he knew that 
Bristles had guessed what was wrong with him. 
That night he went early to bed, but not early to 
sleep. For a long time he sat on the side of his 
bed, staring at the blank whitewashed wall upon 
which the candle-light flickered. Joan's departure 
had ended another chapter in his life. He was no 
longer as he had been before her coming. She had 
unlocked some little door in his heart, and let out 
a legion of desires, of hopes, of ambitions. He must 
begin to carve out his way, to prepare himself for 
the journey into the great world, to look ahead to 
his goal. He could no longer drift on aimlessly, in 
the same old dreamy way of boyhood. He could 
see, even now, the day was coming when this little 
cottage by the sea would no longer be large enough 
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to hojd him. He would have to go out and away. 
In the future that lay before him two spirit voices 
would call so that he must answer them. Two dream 
faces would haunt him, two ghosts beckon to him. 
The face of Beauty, his mother, and the face of 
Joan, his comrade, were visible to him, even in the 
darkness through which the whitewashed walls of his 
little bedroom showed faintly when the candle had 
guttered out ; and that night in his sleep they were 
strangely intermingled, so that they seemed like 
the face of one girl- woman, the spirit of womanhood 
itself. 



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CHAPTER IV 

THE FATHER OF THE MAN 

In most lives events are of less importance than 
ideas. The things which happen in a man's out- 
ward experience are trivial compared with the things 
which happen inside his brain. The great crises of 
history arrive, not by definite acts, but by a host 
of indefinite tendencies of thought, culminating in 
a supreme conviction. So it was in the history of 
Nicholas Barton. Looking back upon his early 
days, he remembers few episodes or adventurous in- 
cidents of any great influence upon his character 
and fate, but only the ceaseless adventure of a mind 
struggling forward to an uncertain goal, of a spirit 
yearning with undefined desires, of an imagination 
thrilled by the dim half lights of truth. He remem- 
bers moments of revelation, when a conversation, 
a few chance words, a sudden flash of intuition, 
changed his whole aspect of life, or helped him up to 
a new plane of understanding, or made his whole 
being quiver with an emotion which became a new 
source of inspiration. He remembers also a thou- 
sand small details of experience, all blending into 
one broad, even pressure upon his intelligence, and 
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imperceptibly directing its character and evolution. 
He knows now that the quiet monotony of his life 
in that little cottage by the sea, so uneventful and 
utiexciting as it seemed, was charged with forces 
which he was powerless to resist, but which moulded 
him like clay on the potter's wheel. 

One such force was the quiet but steady influence 
of Mary Lavenham, whom he had called the Lonely 
Lady. This curious woman of blunt speech and 
blunt manners had something in her character which 
had put a spell upon the four people who were her 
closest neighbors. She had no particular beauty, 
even her nose had a tendency to bluntness, and her 
chin was almost masculine in its strength, but her 
eyes, gray when they were tranquil, steel-blue when 
they were lighted with emotion, seemed to look out 
with an utter truthfulness and candor which cap- 
tured the confidence of her friends, so that they 
confessed themselves to her, and revealed secrets 
which they had kept hidden from all others. Her 
gifts of practical helpfulness, too, were so great that 
men, who are helpless in many things belonging to 
the sphere of women, called to her when they were 
in distress. It was, for instance, to Mary Lavenham 
that Captain Muffett went when a button fell off 
his blue reefer jacket, when his second-best braces 
broke, when he set his kitchen on fire during some 
experimental cookery with a new gas stove and a 
kippered herring, and whan he was threatened with 

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a week-end visit from one of his elderly maiden sis- 
ters, who occasionally invaded his small cottage and 
uttered severe criticisms upon his domestic economy. 
It was also Mary Lavenham that he called upon 
when he was in low spirits because the gout devils 
were pulling his left leg, and when he was beset 
with religious difficulties, because as a seafaring 
man he could not reconcile the story of Noah's Ark 
with his knowledge of ships and shipping. Always 
he found comfort, and many times to Nick he con- 
fessed his gratitude for the friendship of this woman, 
whose wisdom and kindness were beyond those of 
any other woman, except his own mother, dead these 
fifty years. 

"My lad," he said, "if ever you lose your bear- 
ings in a black fog of doubt, just you send up a 
rocket for Mary Lavenham. She'll pilot you into 
safe waters, and make no charge for the service." 

Once he said very solemnly, "I love the groimd 
that woman treads on. To go into that cottage of 
hers is better than a sermon. She makes one feel 
good." 

In more jocular moods he vowed that for Mary 
Lavenham he had a romantic passion which was 
wearing him to a shadow, and that only the fear 
of a refusal prevented him from popping the ques- 
tion to her, and buying a plain gold ring. 

And once, after repeating that well-worn joke, he 
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added very mysteriously, staring hard at Nick, and 
speaking in a hoarse whisper: 

**But I'm not the only one to feel like that for 
Mary Lavenham. There's rivals about, sonny." 

Thereupon he winked convulsively with one side 
of his face, but in a solemn way. 

"Rivals?" said Nick, lifting his eyebrows. 

"Ay," said the old man. "And if you'll not split 
to a living soul, I'll give you the name of one of 
them, and leave you to guess the other." 

"All right," said Nick. "I won't tell." 

Captain Muffett stared very hard again at Nick. 

"There's a man not far away from here that 
would give his soul to take that woman by the hand 
and go down on his knees before her. Poor fellow ! 
Poor fellow! He's shipwrecked his life, and is 
struggling in the icy waters, and he knows that The 
Mary Lavenham is the only life-boat within reach 
of him, and yet he daresn't call out to her, lest he 
should drag her down with him. Don't you call 
that a tragedy ?" 

"The Merman?" asked Nick quietly. He knew 
it was the Merman, for he had seen the wistfulness 
in the eyes of that man when Miss Lavenham was 
within sight. He had seen his worshipping look 
when she had passed close to him. 

"Ay!" said Captain Muffett, "it's Edward Framp- 
ton, whom we call the Merman. One of the noblest 
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men that ever breathed, except when the devil gets 
his clutch on him/' 

And then he confided to Nick that Edward Framp- 
ton would have drunk himself to death long ago, if 
Mary Lavenham had not come to be his next door 
neighbor. She had discovered his secret very 
quickly, and instead of being frightened and horror 
struck like nine women out of ten, she had been 
filled with a great pity, and a good courage. She 
had nursed the man when he had been at death's 
door, and she had pleaded with him to rise above 
his weakness, and she had struggled with him when 
the craving had got its grips upon him. And after 
the madness had left him, she had helped him back 
to self-respect, by showing him how she honored all 
that was good and noble in him, and how she believed 
still that he could crush the beast within him. After 
every attack she still put hope into him by this 
loyalty of faith in his power to resist, if only he 
tried with all his will. And at least she had suc- 
ceeded in gaining longer periods of sanity and health 
for the man. It was only rarely now that he gave 
way to the poison that was in his blood. 

"If Edward Frampton's soul is saved from the 
fiery furnace,'* said Captain Muffett, taking off his 
cap, as though he were in church, "it is Mary Lav- 
enham who will get God's thanks, and be numbered 
among the saints. Amen." 

Then, after a little while, he whispered again to 
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Nick, although they were on a lonely stretch of 
sands with no human being within sound of his 
voice: 

"There's one thing that makes me afraid — ^afraid 
for my dear and noble friend Edward Frampton." 

"What's that?" asked Nick. 

The old man hesitated. 

"Perhaps I ought not to tell. Perhaps it ain't 
fair to tell.'' 

But after this expression of doubt, he blurted out 
some vague and incoherent words. 

"It's like this, sonny. If a man clings to a life- 
belt to save him from drowning in cold water, it's 
a fearful thing if a stout swimmer comes along and 
takes away that one support. Then the poor fel- 
low may go right under, losing all hope." 

"What do you mean?" said Nick. 

"I speak in parables, as it were," said Captain 
MuflFett, who had been reading the Scriptures dili- 
gently of late. "Mary Lavenham is the life-belt, and 
the strong swimmer is a man who has only got to 
stretch out his hand to take her. She is ready for 
him. She will not resist him, because, you see, 
sonny, on this here tide of life God sends His life- 
belts to them that swims strongest. Changing the 
way of speech, I put it in this style. Love between 
a man and a woman is like two hearts bobbing 
about in a great sea, and then drawn to each other 
by a strong current, which is God's will. The heart 
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of Mary Lavenham is drifting steadily towards the 
heart of a man who, as I will admit, is the least 
unworthy to be united to that dear soul." 

After which burst of strange and incoherent elo- 
quence, Captain Muffett pulled out his bandanna 
handkerchief and blew his nose very violently. 

"Who is the man?" asked Nick. But again he 
knew the answer to his question, though the Admiral 
had spoken in riddles. He knew that it was his 
father who had only got to stretch out his hand 
to take Mary Lavenham's heart, and that knowledge 
made him afraid, as Captain Muffett was afraid, 
though for a different reason. He was afraid be- 
cause he believed that his father had no right to 
any heart but that of Beauty, who belonged to him, 
though she had gone away. 

Captain Muffett did not answer his question, but 
with the simplicity of old age, made a mystery about 
something which he had not been able to hide. 

The knowledge of a love affair between his father 
and Miss Lavenham, a knowledge which grew with 
every little secret sign between them, with many 
an interchange of glances which Nick had overseen, 
and with certain small episodes which told him that 
his father had that feeling of strange exhilaration 
and mental uplifting which had startled Nick in his 
own being when Joan had come to Barhampton, 
made him suspicious of her and shy of her. He 
wanted to hate her. There were times when he 
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believed that he detested her. But she was so kind, 
so patient with all his moods, so quick to understand 
him, that his attempt at hatred failed utterly, and 
he was almost won over to be her worshipper, like 
Bristles and the Merman and the Admiral. He 
could not escape from her influence. As long as his 
life would last he would be in her debt for two of 
the best gifts of life, a love of poetry and a love 
of art. It was her readings of Shelley and Keats 
which first taught him the magic of word-music, 
and revealed to him the high peaks of mystical 
nature. It was in her room, on winter evenings, 
that he was first spellbound by the divine harmonies 
of the poets, so that when her low, thrilling voice 
recited their lines in her quiet room, where two 
candles shone like stars in the surrounding dusk, it 
seemed that his own dreams and instincts, and faint 
images of beauty, were being called up in his spirit, 
and made real and perfect; as when, without her 
book, she looked up at him, and spoke the words of 
Shelley's "Sleep." 

O magic sleep ! O comfortable bird. 
That broodest o'er the troubled sea of the mind 
Till it is hushed and smooth 1 O unconfined 
Restraint! imprisoned liberty 1 great key 
To golden palaces, strange minstrelsy. 
Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves, 
Echoing grottoes, full of tumbling waves 
And moonlight; aye, to all the mazy world 
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Of silvery enchantment 1 Who, unfurled 
Beneath thy dewy wing a triple hour. 
But renovates and lives? 

There was a hush after she had spoken those lines, 
and then, as Nick gave unconsciously a low, quiv- 
ering sigh, she put her hand upon him, and said : 

"It is good to understand things like that You 
imderstand, Nick, because you, too, have the poet's 
mind. Beauty comes to you in dreams waking and 
sleeping. So I guess, at least/' 

And she did not know how truly she had guessed, 
not knowing that Beauty came to him with a 
woman's face. 

It was Mary Lavenham who first lighted the little 
flame in his heart which afterward caught him up 
in a great fire of enthusiasm. It was when she gave 
him his first lessons in drawing, and said one day: 

"Soon you will be teaching me, for even now you 
get something into your work which I strive for 
but cannot reach. You understand the heart of 
things, the secret, living character of things, that 
to most people seem dead. That old tree! You 
have got its tragic loneliness, standing solitary on 
the riverside. That ruin of a boat. You have made 
me pity it, because it is rotting to death on the 
mud. Those bits of washing on the line. How 
gfrotesque they seem, bellying in the wind! How 
do you see the human character of things like that? 
. . . Nick, if you liked, you could be an artist" 
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Those words were a crisis in his life, because after 
all his gropings in the dark toward a definite goal, 
they were like a flashlight, revealing the straight 
path to his supreme ambition. Yes 1 he would be an 
artist. That had been destined even from those days 
when, as a baby at Battersea, he had scribbled his 
quaint imaginations on paper, trying to draw the 
noise of the ducks and the scent of the flowers, and 
trying to put on paper the character of the familiar 
objects in that top-floor flat, which spoke to him in 
a secret language which he understood — ^the hassock 
with two ears, the wide-embracing chair, the laugh- 
ing lions on the sideboard, the kettle on the kitchen 
fire, the teapot with the broken spout But it was 
Mary Lavenham who revealed his destiny, by her 
words of praise, and by her never-failing encourage- 
ment, even when his pencil failed and when in the 
passion of a boy's despair he flung his brushes into 
the sea — and bought another set next day. 

She was his mistress of art, teaching him the mys- 
teries of perspective, the greater mysteries of color, 
showing by her own example how to hint and sug- 
gest, without too much detail, how to build up an 
effect by simple lines, how to see the essential things, 
and to turn a blind eye to the unessential. She 
taught him the tricks and technique of her own 
method, but scoffed at them and said, "You can do 
much better. This is just elementary school style. 
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You must put yourself into your work, and get 
away from all this old-maid trimipery." 

Afterward he knew that she spoke the truth about 
her own work, though it seemed wonderful to him 
in those early days of his apprenticeship, but look- 
ing back on his career he knows even now that the 
best lessons of his life were when he sat drawing 
er painting by the side of the Lonely Lady, getting 
inspiration from her enthusiasm, and correcting his 
faults by her advice, and developing a steady pur- 
pose and ambition, because she saw great virtues in 
his early efforts. 

He worked hard now, getting up early to make 
a sketch of the sunrise over the sand-dunes, sketch- 
ing all day long in color, or pencil, or charcoal, and 
even in his sleep painting imaginary pictures with 
strange effects of mist and light, which seemed to 
him next morning more perfect than ever he could 
paint in his waking hours. This new ambition, this 
incessant labor for a real purpose, was a curious re- 
lief to him. It was an outfet for energies becoming 
too strong for the dreamy idleness of his younger 
days, and it gave scope to the restlessness of body 
and spirit which had made him fretful and uneasy, 
like a wild animal in too small a cage. Now he 
filled his sketch-books wfth an attempt to express 
his ideals of beauty, and his imaginative adventures. 
He drew grotesque things, quaint characters, fairy- 
tale creatures, which seemed to grow beneath his 
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pencil without the dictation of his mind, and imag- 
inary scenes, with 

Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves. 
Echoing grottoes, full of tumbling waves 
And moonlight . . . 

and in the evenings it was drawing now, and not 
reading, which filled the long, dark hours. 

But though Mary Lavenham was his mistress in 
art, it was Edward Frampton, whom he had called 
the Merman, who was his master of philosophy. 
Between that strange man and young Nicholas Bar- 
ton there was a romantic friendship, as between 
Jonathan and David, and the elder man leaned upon 
the boy. It seemed as though he saw in this boy — 
himself, at the same age as Nick, with the same 
imaginative nature, quick temper, and restlessness, 
and as though he desired that Nick should gain all 
the things which he himself had missed — ^honor, 
fame, self-respect, above all, self-control. 

It was upon those subjects that he harped con- 
tinually, though roaming in a wide field of knowl- 
edge, for his examples and models, and he held 
himself up as a horrible instance of what to avoid. 

"I'm a failure, Nick, a damned waster, a broken 
derelict cast upon the shore. Take warning from 
my tragedy. The truth is that I was spoiled at the 
beginning of things. I began rich, and I have ended 
poor. You have the advantage of starting right 
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at the bottom rung of the ladder. All the fun is 
in climbing up. Now / have been climbing down 
ever since I left Oxford twenty-five years ago, as the 
son of a rich father, with the world at my feet." 

He put down his failure to the lack of an honest 
friend, at the time when he needed one most. 

"There were plenty of men who called themselves 
my friends, but they only sponged on me when I had 
plenty of money in my pockets, and flattered me 
in my self-conceit, and preyed upon my weak good 
nature, and were boon companions in my foolish 
hours. 

O summer friendship. 
Whose flattering leaves that shadowed us in 
Our prosperity, with the least gust drop off 
In th' autiunn of adversity! 

Edward Frampton indulged in a reverie of self- 
pity. He seemed to find some bitter-sweetness in 
the contemplation of his own failure, and a strange 
satisfaction in scourging himself with his own scorn. 

"I was a fool of 4ools. Because I was popular, 
because I could sing a good song and make an after- 
dinner speech, and because I was born with a straight 
nose instead of a crooked one — a handsome fellow 
they called me then, Nick — I believed that I was 
destined to be a leader of men. Perhaps I might 
have been — who knows? But whenever I had a 
chance of leadership, I threw it away, bcause it en- 
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tailed hard work and a hard life, and I shirked work 
and wanted an easy life. My lad, that is the secret 
of my moral shipwreck — ^taking the line of least re- 
sistance. You can't win your way to any high place 
and hold it unless you are ready to eschew delights 
and live laborious days. I gave up a career in the 
army because I thought it was infernal drudgery. 
I wandered about the world, as a coffee-planter, as 
a palm-oil ruffian, as a captain of South African 
horse, as a trooper in the Bechuanaland Border 
Police, and failed every time I got a chance. Why? 
Because I shirked hard labor. Now look at me — 2l 
man idling his life away in futile regrets, subsidized 
by rich relations, who despise him." 

Having lingered over his self-abasement, piling 
up denunciations upon his own head, he then built 
up a picture of Nick's rapid advancement to fame 
and honor. 

"Nick, dear boy, I covet honor for you, as though 
you were my own son. I shall not be satisfied to 
peg out until you have gained all those things I 
missed. Your success will be a joy to me, as though 
I had a share in the making of it. And, indeed, I 
think I may claim a share, for in these long talks 
we have had together I have pointed out the perils 
of life, and upheld the true ideals, and helped you 
to play the game as it should be played by any 
gentleman, using my own weakness as a moral tag. 
There is only one thing that makes me afraid for 
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you. There is only one creature on God's earth 
that can spoil your chances." 

"What is that?" asked Nick, startled by this new 
hint of peril. 

"A woman," said Edward Frampton solemnly. 
And after a little while, with his hand on Nick's 
shoulder, not much lower than his own now, though 
he was a tall man, he explained himself. 

"You have got an emotional heart, with which 
a woman may play the very devil if she once gets 
her fingers to work at your heart strings. If she 
is one of the cruel kind, she may spoil all your 
future. Keep away from women as much as pos- 
sible, Nick. Keep your work, at least, clear from 
their impertinent intrusions. For Art is an austere 
mistress, and is jealous of all rivals." 

Nick was silent, and pondered over these words. 
They were reminiscent of similar warnings he had 
had from Mary Lavenham, and they filled him with 
a vague alarm, because they coincided with certain 
signs that his father's work was being disturbed by 
a woman — who was Mary Lavenham herself. For 
some time Bristles had been restless and unable to 
settle to a new novel. Instead of writing in the 
mornings he went out for lonely walks, and did not 
ask Nick to join him, and came back with a queer 
shining light in his eyes, as though he had seen a 
happy vision. Nick watched him, and wondered, 
and was afraid, because he knew that his father was 
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hiding from him the secret of a love which could 
have nothing but an unhappy ending, because in 
Nick's philosophy and faith, his mother still claimed 
his father's loyalty. 

One sentence, just a few words in length, was 
an epoch in his life. It was when his father said 
very quietly one day : 

"Nick, old man, how would you like it if I mar- 
ried again?'' 

In the moment that followed that question all 
the secret, hidden things in the heart of the boy, 
all the vague memories of his childhood, the fairy- 
tale which had been woven like a golden thread in 
the texture of his life, seemed broken by a great 
shock of emotion which swept through him with a 
cold, rushing wind. Then, after the moment of 
dazed surprise and pain, he was possessed with a 
sudden passionate anger. 

"I should hate it," he said. "I should loathe it/' 

He jerked out the words in a half strangled voice, 
and then, without looking at his father, who was 
stricken speechless by his violent protest, seized his 
cap and marched out of the cottage, and went for 
a long, lonely walk on the cliffs, in the buffets of 
the wind, which did not cool the rage in his heart, 
until at last his emotion was spent and he came 
home again with a whipped-dog look. During the 
evening meal Bristles and he sat very silent, as 
though an invisible barrier were between them. 
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Once or twice' Bristles looked at his son, furtively 
and timidly, as though he were afraid of him, and 
once or twice he made a poor attempt at conversa- 
tion about Nick's studies, and the weather, and the 
health of the old Admiral, who was laid up with 
the gout, but after a "Yes'' or "No" from Nick, 
relapsed into a gloomy silence. 

It was only when the supper had been cleared 
away by Polly, who noticed that something was 
"amiss" between the father and son whom she loved 
with the fidelity of a house-dog, that Nick broke 
the spell of silence by an abrupt challenge. 

'T, want you to tell me about Beauty — ^about my 
mother. It's time I knew." 

Bristles had been waiting for that question for 
years. He knew that it was bound to come. He 
knew that one day he would have to give an ac- 
count to his son of the tragedy which had made 
this boy motherless. And he had always been afraid 
of that day when the tale must be told, because it 
would be difficult to tell it truly, to apportion the 
blame, to justify himself, to explain the heartless- 
ness of a woman of whom, as he knew, this boy 
cherished an exquisite memory. Now the time had 
come when Nick must know. "It's time I knew," he 
said, and Bristles must open the old wound that 
had seemed quite healed. 

He walked to the mantelshelf, and filled his pipe, 
and loaded it with more than usual care to give 
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himself time to think out his defence. For it was 
clear to him that Nick was an accuser, and that he 
would have to defend himself for the loss of the 
boy's mother. 

"What do you want to know ?" he said, guardedly. 

"I want to know why she ran away from you.'' 

Bristles lit his pipe, and puffed out a long coil 
of smoke. 

"I want to be fair to your mother, Nick. It would 
be easy for me to call her names, to dismiss the 
whole thing by calling her a hussy, and a bad 
woman ..." 

He had not finished his sentence, but Nick's face 
flushed painfully, and he drew a quick breath. 

"But you would not believe that, and you would 
hate me for abusing a woman whom you remember 
as Beauty, the well-beloved. My dear old man, it 
is not easy to explain. She had a restless nature, 
fond of gaiety and pleasure, and I was too poor to 
satisfy all her desires in that way." 

"But that wasn't her only reason for running 
away, was it?" 

"The only reason ?" said Bristles. He sucked his 
pipe, and for a few minutes brooded back into the 
past. 

"There were thousands of reasons. Little things, 

all adding up to a big sum of wretchedness. From 

the very first our temperaments clashed. Although 

we loved each other in the beginning, we got upon 

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each other's nerves most damnably. We were al- 
ways quarrellmg over small absurdities, things that 
didn't matter tuppence, really, but which seemed to 
us, at the tin^e, to matter enormously. I hated to 
see her reading foolish novelettes. She disliked my 
taste in ties, my style of collars, said that I was 
stamped all over with the brand of the City clerk. 
Ridiculous things like that, leading to continual 
bickerings, scornful words, sneers. I wanted to 
mould her to my way of thinking, and she would not 
be moulded. She tried to break down my serious 
convictions, laughed at my sense of propriety, ridi- 
culed my conventionality. I hated her play-acting 
business. It made me rage inwardly, and get sullen 
and sulky with her when she exhibited herself on 
the stage, and acted love-scenes with impertinent 
young fools, and let herself be fondled publicly by 
coarse and elderly actors playing the lead in melo- 
drama. It made me shiver. It seemed to me an 
outrage that my wife should be handled by fellows 
of loose morals. So that was another cause of 
quarrel. She was in her element at the theatre. 
Her mother had been an actress, her grandmother 
had been an actress ; the profession was in her blood. 
She could not understand my objections to stage 
life, and thought I must be a morose, narrow-minded 
Puritan. In a way I was. I have got the Puritanical 
strain in me, but that is the fault of my ancestors. 
Anyhow, it seemed to Beauty that I disliked to see 
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her gay, that I was most gloomy when she was 
most high-spirited, that I was a wet blanket, damp- 
ing all her joyousness. You see, I try to be fair to 
her." 

"I don't see why you should have been so hard 
on her!'' said Nick. 

It seemed to him that all this was a proof that 
his father had been to blame. Everything that 
Bristles had said was a confession of Beauty's 
gaiety, of her laughter-loving spirit, just as he re- 
membered her. 

^'Hardonher!" 

That stung the man. It hurt him frightfully that 
Nick should take his stand by the side of the woman 
who had abandoned both of them, and against the 
man whom she had cruelly betrayed. And yet he 
had expected that. He had known all along that 
the time would come when Nick would be against 
him, because a son always takes the mother's part 

"She was hard on me, Nick. Beneath all her 
gaiety there was the hardness of an utterly selfish 
heart. I slaved for her in a City office, but do you 
think she cared because I was wearing myself out 
so that I might get promotion for her sake ? Why, 
she despised me for it. She would have had more 
respect for me if I had run into debt and played a 
flash game, like one of her actor fellows, who run up 
bills and say, *Damn the consequences.' Because I 
was honest she thought me a poor-spirited drudge." 
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"But she was earning her own living," said Nick. 
"She paid for herself, didn't she?" 

"Yes, she paid for herself/' said Bristles bitterly. 

He rapped his pipe sharply against the mantd- 
shelf and then leaned forward and said, with a kind 
of passion in his voice: 

"I would rather see you dead than married to a 
wife who pays for herself. It puts a man into a 
false position. It robs him of all authority. It 
gives a woman an independence which is not good 
for her." 

"I don't see why," said Nick stubbornly. He 
could not follow his father's reasoning at all. He 
was thinking only of Beauty, who had laughed and 
danced through his childhood. His father's defence 
seemed to him pitiful. Surely he could have saved 
Beauty from running away. If he had behaved 
properly to her she would not have run away. "Why 
shouldn't she have paid for herself?" 

"I will tell you why," said Bristles harshly. "Be- 
cause when she wastes her money on foolish and 
dangerous things, she says, *I can do what I like 
with my own, can't I?' And when her husband 
remonstrates with her for piling up expenses which 
are beyond both their incomes, she says, *I don't 
cost you a halfpenny, do I? Surely you don't be- 
grudge me some little luxuries which I earn by hard 
work ?' That's what Beauty used to say. She was 
so independent that I could not safeguard her from 

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the dangers of independence. She would go gad- 
ding off with people who had no scruples of honor, 
no care for my good name, no thought for my ex- 
istence, and because she could say, *I pay,' I had 
no check upon her. But she didn't pay. In the long 
run I paid, with a broken life. You paid, Nick, my 
poor motherless son." 

*Terhaps if you had been more kind with her 
she would not have gone gadding off," said Nidc, 
in a hard voice. 

Bristles stared at him. This father was stricken 
because out of his past a ghost had come to claim 
his son. The law had given him the custody of the 
child, but Nature, greater than the law, had allowed 
the memory of the mother to wrest Nick's heart 
from him, and poison Nick's mind against him. 
He had been the comrade of his son for more than 
ten years now, since his wife had deserted them. 
He had watched over him, tended him, given him 
all that was best in his heart and brain, but all that 
counted for nothing now, and the woman who had 
abandoned the duties of her motherhood, who had 
forsaken the child of her flesh, had stretched out an 
unseen hand to capture the boy. Nick's last words 
whipped him into a sudden anger, not against Nick, 
but against this cruelty. 

"My kindness to her was thrown away on a 
light-of-love. The woman was vile to the core." 

Nick rose from his chair, white to the lips. 
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"You mustn't say that," he said, staring at his 
father with burning eyes. 

Bristles was reckless now. His son had demanded 
the truth, and he must learn it. 

"She was eaten up with vanity — a colossal, devil- 
ish vanity which destroyed any faint touch of moral 
decency which may have been in her nature at the 
beginning. Any scoundrel who pandered to her 
appetite for adulation made her forget her honor 
as a wife. That man, that beast with whom she 
went away, was not the first to tempt her to betray 
me, not the first to succeed. By God, I was patient 
with her and forgiving ! God knows I warned her, 
and pleaded with her, and pardoned her, until her 
last treachery. She walked open-eyed into the 
spider's web. Nick, my boy, your mother was as 
false as hell." 

Nick did not answer for a moment. He was 
standing very straight and still, with that white face 
of his and burning eyes. His mouth had hardened. 
There was something in the line of his mouth, some- 
thing about his eyes which reminded Bristles of 
Beauty in one of her tempers, when she lost control 
of herself, and said bitter, cruel things, which stabbed 
him like daggers. This strange likeness to the 
woman who had been his wife was so vivid, so start- 
ling at that moment that the man seemed to see the 
woman's spirit suddenly stare at him through the 
mask of the boy's face. He knew that the words 
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trembling up to the boy's lips would be cruel words. 
Before they were spoken he shrank from them. 

"You are brutal/' said Nick, through his clenched 
teeth. "I think you were a brute to Beauty, and Fm 
not surprised she ran away from you.'' 

Bristles sprang up from his chair, as white as 
Nick, and the father and son stood facing each other, 
staring into each other's eyes, breathing jerkily. It 
was a moment of enormous tragedy. Outside the 
open window there was the whisper of the great 
sea, as its calm waves ruffled upon the moist sands. 
Inside the room the clock ticked with a steady beat, 
more noisy than the world beyond the cottage. The 
night was so quiet, the silence brooding over sea 
and shore was so intense, that the op«i window 
seemed like a great ear listening to this quarrel be- 
tween the man and boy, and the moon which shone 
like a lantern within the square window frame 
seemed to stare curiously at the two human beings 
whose comradeship had been smashed by a woman's 
sin. In that moment when the father faced his son, 
when the son faced his father, with an emotion not 
less passionate because it was of a deadly quietude, 
each knew that this was a moral earthquake which 
had shaken the foundations upon which, until now, 
they seemed to have stood so securely. Each knew 
that a gulf had opened up between them for which, 
as yet, the bridge had not been built. It seemed 
to Nick that all his life since Beauty had gone away 
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had been leading up to this crisis, when he stood as 
the accuser and judge of the man from whom she 
had fled. His waking dreams of her, the fragrant 
memories which had haunted him, his yearnings, 
his secret tears, his unuttered cries of childhood, his 
passionate regrets, had been storing up facts upon 
which his father was condemned. Because the only- 
facts which coimted with him were those witnesses 
in his own heart which spoke on behalf of Beauty, 
and pleaded as counsels in her defence. 

It seemed like an hour that the father stood fac- 
ing his son. It was just the time in which the heavy 
pendulum of the grandfather's clock swung from 
one side to the other. Then Bristles spoke, and his 
voice was hollow and lifeless : 

"One day you will be sorry for having said those 
words." 

That was all. Then he moved uncertainly across 
the room, fumbled with the matches on the side- 
board, and lit a candle. It was early for bed, but 
he went upstairs into his bedroom with a heavy 
tread. It was the first time in Nick's memory that 
his father had not said good-night. 

In the days that followed neither of them alluded 
by any word to that conversation. The name of 
Beauty did not pass their lips. The emotion that 
had stirred each of them to the depths seemed for- 
gotten and buried beneath new interests. Their old 
relations of comradeship seemed re-established. 
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They laughed and chatted, discussed plans for the 
future, went on long, lonely walks, when Nick spoke 
of his ambitions with apparent candor, and received 
the warm encouragement and anxious hopefulness of 
the man who had been his counsellor and guide from 
babyhood. But they knew that neither of them 
would ever forget the words spoken in the silence 
of the world, when the sea lay calm outside the win- 
dow, and that a gulf was between them, even when 
they walked shoulder by shoulder across the sand- 
dtmes. 

It was Mary Lavenham who had the deciding 
voice in the councils which were held on the subject 
of Nick's career, shared by Edward Frampton, Cap- 
tain Muffett, and Polly, with Bristles in the back- 
ground, anxious, balancing the pros and cons, 
hesitating in his approval of any definite plan. 

Mary Lavenham's first expression of opinion 
had been uttered in her forcible way when she had 
stood behind Nick's shoulder when he was sitting 
down by the estuary doing a charcoal sketch of some 
boats lying up on the mud and of some sailors 
mending their nets. 

"Do you think it comes all right?" said Nick. 

"It is better than all right/' said Miss Lavenham. 
"It is so good that it is a crime for you to be pot- 
tering away here when you ought to be getting the 
best training and beginning a great career. I have 
nothing more to teach you. You have left me behind 
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months ago. The Academy Schools are the place 
for you, Nick." 

'Think so ?" said Nick, very calmly, although his 
heart gave a great leap at her words. "Perhaps I 
have as much chance of getting to the moon." 

"Yon will never get to the moon if you look no 
higher than the earth," said Miss Lavenham. "I 
want you to look as high as the stars and to reach 
up to them. You can do that if you like." 

'^Unfortunately I am the son of a poor man," said 
Nick. 

"Rubbish I" said Miss Lavenham. "It*s only pov- 
erty that gets the gold in the stars. If your father 
were a rich man you would never be anything but 
a silly amateur. You've got to be an artist, Nick, 
which means a man who lives for and by his craft." 

"By Jove!" said Nick. "If only I had the chance 
of doing it!" 

"You have a man's chance," said Miss Lavenham. 
"We will see that you have it." 

That "we" embraced the little group of people 
who had constituted themselves into a committee for 
the honor and glory of Nicholas Barton. It included 
Polly, who, when this idea of the Academy Schools 
had become a fixed idea, discussed separately and 
collectively, drew Nicholas aside one day, and said 
in a whisper : 

"Master Nick, I have got a little bit to help you 
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into them schools. It ain't much, dear heart, but 
you know my love goes with it." 

She thrust into his hand an old leather purse which 
bulged out as though it were full of coins, and then 
to hide the emotion with which she seemed to be 
struggling she seized the rolling pin with which she 
was making a piece of pastry, and started singing 
"Take back the heart that thou gavest," woefully 
out of tune. 

Nick stared at the purse in his hand, not know- 
ing what to do with it. 

"What's all this, Polly? Do you think I want to 
sponge on you ?" 

Polly gave a ferocious dab at the piece of pastry. 

"It's my savings," she said, "if you must know, 
and a precious lot of good they are, unless they're 
put to a better use than I can make of 'em !" 

"Good Lord, Polly!" said Nick. "I would hang 
myself before I took your hard-earned money. One 
of these days you will want it for yourself." 

"Want it for what?" asked Polly, rolling the 
pastry into a thin strip. "Surely your Pa will give 
me a decent funeral when I drop down dead in his 
service." 

She pretended to get angry, and spoke with a 
great deal of indignation. 

"Surely your Pa won't throw me out like an old 
shoe, after all these years, after looking after him 
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in his absent-mindedness, and him as helpless as a 
babe tinbom !" 

"Of course he won't, Polly, What a ridiculous 
idea !" said Nick. "As if we could ever do without 
your 

"Well, then!" said Polly triumphantly, lifting up 
the piece of dough, and flinging it down on the board 
again. "As long as I'm drawing my wages what 
more do I want? I can't eat more than three meals 
a day, can I? You don't want me to take a jaunt 
over to Paris and indulge in an orgy of wickedness, 
do you?" 

"No," said Nick, laughing at the preposterous 
idea. "I shouldn't think of your doing such a thing. 
But I can't take your money, all the same, Polly." 

Polly left her pastry, and flung her floury arms 
round Nick. 

"Dear poppet, though you're too old to be called 
a poppet, but always will be to me, just take it 
toward the expenses of them schools, and don't say 
another word to your poor old nurse that would let 
you tread over her body if it would be any good to 
you. Your Pa is a poor man, but every bit of them 
savings have come out of the sweat of his brow, so 
that it's only giving back what's his and yours." 

Nick kissed her, as he used to in his baby days, 
though now he was so tall that he looked down upon 
her. 

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THE FATHER OF THE MAN 

"I will take the purse," he said, "but only as a 
loan, Polly." 

She was satisfied with that, though she muttered 
something about "loan be hanged," and she resumed 
her attack upon the unfortunate piece of dough with 
renewed energy and great cheerfulness of spirits. 

Polly's generosity was equaled, though not sur- 
passed, except in money values, by Nick's other 
friends, and when it was definitely arranged that he 
should go to London to attend the Academy Schools, 
Miss Lavenham, Edward Frampton and Captain 
MufFett made thejnselves jointly responsible for his 
fees, his father agreeing to this arrangement because 
it was made clear to him, after many arguments, that 
they all desired a share in Nick's glory. During 
those last days in the cottage by the sea, when he 
stood on the threshold of yoimg manhood, facing at 
last the great adventure when he would go forth 
to seek his fortune, to stand alone, to put himself 
to the test of life, he was overwhelmed with a sense 
of thankfulness for these good friends who believed 
in him, more than he believed in himself, and he 
realized with humility and self-abasement how often 
he had taken their favors for granted and behaved 
with the selfishness and arrogance of boyhood. He 
did not understand that he had given back more 
than he received. That the child who had grown 
into a boy and the boy who was fast growing into 
a man, had filled up a gap in the hearts of these 
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middle-aged people by the spirit of youth, and that 
his companionship had kept them from growing old 
and rusty before their time. To Mary Lavenham 
he had been like one of her dream children, and 
she had mothered him, in spite of his shyness of 
her. To Edward Frampton he had been the image 
of his own tmspoiled youth, and a yoimg knight 
with untarnished armor. To Captain Muffett, the 
old "Admiral," he had been a comrade with whom 
he had grown yoimg again. They had carved out 
many boats together ! They had sailed up the estu- 
ary on many breezy days. The withered old heart 
of a man who had known tragedy had iSowered into 
a second childhood when Nick came to ask his ques- 
tions. Nick did not know those things then. He 
only felt fearful lest he might not prove himself 
worthy of their faith in him. And on the last night, 
when they assembled in his father's sitting-room, 
when the Admiral made a prayer over a bowl of 
pimch, and after drinking to Nick's health and to his 
prosperous voyage on a fair sea, ended with an 
^men, and wiped his eye with his bandanna hand- 
kerchief ; when Edward Frampton, not touching the 
ptmch, made a fine speech in which he quoted many 
lines from the poets upon honor and glory, and the 
splendor of youth; when Miss Lavenham sat very 
still and quiet until her turn came to speak and she 
made a fairy-tale of Nick's way through the worlds 
of art, until he reached the high peaks of eternal 
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beauty after many struggles, many failures, many 
moments of despair; and lastly when Bristles was 
left alone with him, and kissed him before the last 
good-night in this cottage by the sea, and said, *'l 
shall miss you horribly, old man. I must join you 
as soon as possible,*' then Nick's heart was filled to 
overflowing, so that his eyes were moist with tears, 
and he could not speak. In the loneliness of his 
little room that night he sat on the side of his bed 
until the candle flickered out, and even then he sat 
in the darkness thinking of the boyhood that was 
passing and of the manhood that was coming. The 
thrill of the great adventure had already stirred him. 
Ambition, the colossal ambition of youth, quickened 
his pulse, and the thought of going back to London, 
which he remembered only through the mists of 
memory, excited him like a powerful drug. For in 
London were the two dream faces which had haunted 
his imagination, and in the crowd he might find 
them again. As once before, when he lay down to 
sleep, the face of Beauty and the face of Joan came 
to him and intermingled, so that they seemed one 
face, with a little teasing smile about the lips. 



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PART III 



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CHAPTER I 

NICHOLAS IN LONDON 

Quite a number of actors and playgoers in London 
became familiar with the face of a young man, hardly 
more than a boy, who was often to be seen waiting 
in the queues outside the galleries, or standing at a 
little distance from the stage doors with an eager 
and searching look when the actresses came hurry- 
ing up before a performance. Suburban girls who 
were devotees of popular players noticed this young 
man partly because he did not seem to notice them. 
If he happened to be standing near them in a queue 
he paid no attention to their chatter, and did not turn 
his head when they giggled, and did not vouchsafe a 
glance at their prettiness, but stood self-absorbed, in- 
tensely introspective, with a dreaminess in his eyes. 
Now and again one of these girls would nudge her 
companion, and whisper, "There's that handsome 
boy again ! Do you remember, we saw him at the 
first night of the new Gaiety piece?" — or when they 
passed him, standing a little aloof, outside a stage 
door, they would smile at each other and say, "He 
always seems looking for some one. I expect he's 
fallen in love with an actress girl's face on a picture 
post-card. I wish I had her luck!" 
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It was Nicholas Barton, who, after his days of 
study at the Academy Schools, came, like a moth to 
the candle, to every new play produced in London. 
After a year of plays many of them bored him unut- 
terably. Often he would sit in the gallery staring 
down upon some new musical comedy, or some new 
problem play, with unseeing eyes, after he had 
scanned the faces of the actresses, without finding 
the face of his desire, through a pair of opera glasses 
which he had bought by economising over his meals. 
For a time the glitter and glare of the musical come- 
dies had been wonderful to him, as all this new life 
in London was wondcrfuL For a time each new 
problem play filled him with new perplexities, opened 
his eyes to new tragedies in the relations between 
men and women, and stirred up uneasy thoughts 
about his own temperament and instincts. But the 
time came when he became almost as blase as most 
r^^ar playgoers, and his critical faculties wore off 
the sharp edge of his appetite for drama, so that he 
was no longer excited by a dreary piece of realism, 
nor ravished by a mere display of plump girls in 
extravagant frocks, as in the days of his first sim- 
plicity. Nevertheless he continued to go to the 
theatre on many nights when he was not hard at 
work in the little studio off the Fulham Road which 
he shared with his one great comrade, Jack G)m)ms 
— ^the Honourable John— or when he had not yielded 
to the solicitations of that recklessly extravagant 
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fellow to dine on the fleshpots of Soho or when he 
was not wandering on long lonely walks of explora- 
tion in and about London, watching the human 
drama of the streets and searching into life with that 
insatiable curiosity with which he had been bom. 
In spite of Jack Comyns, art student, amourist and 
pampered darling of fate (he had a private income 
of £500 a year to set against Nick's allowance of £80 
provided by a literary father who earned each penny 
by sweat of brow and scratching of pen), he liked 
his loneliness best, when his brain was busy with 
the ambitions of his art and when he walked with 
dreams even in places of most sordid realism. He 
was a student of faces — the faces of the crowds in 
the great world of London. They were etched into 
his brain, as afterward he drew them in his note- 
book — ^tragic faces, branded with vice and despair, 
horrible faces like living gargoyles, hideously gro- 
tesque, twisted with the torture of poverty, with the 
pains of hunger, with the stamp of sin, comic faces, 
like caricatures of humanity, ape-like. Puck-like, 
laughing out upon their gray life with the freakish 
humor of the half-starved Cockney, noble faces 
touched with sadness, or spiritualized by suffering, 
beautiful faces, of women unspoiled by luxury, of 
patrician women, a little proud, a little disdainful of 
the world about them, conscious of their breeding, 
pretty, silly, smirking faces of girls displaying their 
vanity to the passers-by, and faces of every type and 

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every class, which to Nicholas Barton, art-student, 
were studies of life to be remembered for his note- 
books, so that Jack Comyns, his comrade, was 
amazed at his industry, and startled into loud ex- 
pressions of admiration. 

It was not easy to give Jack Comyns the slip in 
order to go to the theatre, nor easy to explain his 
reason for going to plays which, as he had to con- 
fess, bored him exceedingly after the first orgy of 
play-going. He had not the pluck to tell that laugh- 
ing, satirical, egotistical fellow who chaffed him for 
his sentiment and pelted him with apples from the 
tree of knowledge that he went not in search of dra- 
matic emotion, but in quest of a mother whose face 
he only dimly remembered as in a dream, and whose 
stage name he had utterly forgotten, since he had 
heard it once at Canterbury on a day which he would 
never forget. 

"Write and ask your Governor*' would have been 
the advice of the Honourable John, who always 
wrote to his own "governor" when he had over- 
drawn his banking account, when he had got into 
some new scrape with a harpy in petticoats, and when 
he desired a little advice for the pleasure of neglect- 
ing it. Nick could not explain to him that the last 
thing in the world he could do was to write for his 
mother's stage name from a father who desired 
nothing more than to forget her. But this igno- 
rance of her name was a great source of trouble to 
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Nicholas Barton, for the playbills did not help him 
in his search, and it was only by holding fast to his 
dim memory of her face that he could ever hope to 
find her among all the women who came on to the 
London stage. Even that dim memory betrayed 
him, so that sometimes his heart had given a great 
thump and his face had flushed, and he was thrilled 
with a great excitement, by the appearance of some 
actress who, for a moment or two, convinced him 
that at last he had found Beauty again, until the 
imaginary likeness faded out, and the voice betrayed 
itself, and he knew that he must go on searching. 
There came a time indeed when he was forced to be- 
lieve that his mother had disappeared forever, and 
that he would never find her again, for never once 
did he see her portrait on any picture post-card or 
in any illustrated paper, and he was familiar now 
with the faces of most of the actresses in the London 
theatres. Perhaps she had given up the stage, so 
that all his trouble had been in vain. 

That was a blow to his heart Upon first coming 
to London he had believed, in the innocence of his 
youth, that he would meet the two people whom he 
most desired to meet, Beauty and Joan, face to face 
in one of the crowded streets. It was only when the 
vastness of London had frightened him, during three 
miserable months in a cheap lodging house in Pim- 
lico, to which he had first gone, before his comrade- 
ship with Jack Q)myns, that he gave up that simple 
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idea. And it was after screwing up his courage to 
the sticking point and calling at the ground-floor 
flat in Battersea, where Joan had lived, that he felt 
most lonely and most abandoned in the great soli- 
tude of the London crowds. For Joan no longer 
lived in the ground-floor flat, and the door was 
opened by a young woman with a cigarette in her 
mouth and a stylographic pen in her hand, who said 
that the Darracotts had gone away without leaving 
their address. 

She volunteered the opinion to Nicholas Barton, 
who stood irresolute and wistful on the doorstep, 
that one of the great blessings of life in London 
was the way in which one could go away and leave 
no address. 

"It is such an excellent thing," she said, "to cut 
and run from one's environment, and begin a new 
life with new friends who are not prejudiced by 
one's horrible past." 

Then she said: 

"Excuse me, I am just killing a young man like 
yourself, and I have left him bleeding oa the hearth- 
rug." 

Seeing a look of stupefaction come into Nick's 
eyes, she laughed, and explained that it was the end 
of the first instalment of a new story she was writ- 
ing for a half-penny paper, and as she was very 
behindhand with her work she would have to buck 
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up. Upon which statement she gave Nick a cheer- 
ful "Good afternoon" and shut the door. 

Nick stood irresolute in the passage, and then 
climbed up the stone stairway and stood outside the 
door of the top-floor flat. Behind that door dwelt 
the dream of his childhood. A flood of memory 
swept back to him, stirring him with a queer emo- 
tion. He remembered the da,y when he had left 
that flat, after Polly had hammered the notice on 
the door with the heel of her shoe — that slip of paper 
on which he had scrawled the words "Beauty, come 
back" — and all the days that had gone before, when, 
as a small boy, he had made great discoveries of 
life, and played strange games with old friends, like 
the hassock with two ears, and had lived in a little 
world of dreams with Bristles and Beauty and 
Polly. How different it all was now that he came 
back as a young man! This stone stairway which 
had seemed to his childish imagination as high as 
heaven itself, was but five flights of dirty steps. The 
flat inside that door must be a tiny place, instead of 
the spacious palace which had haunted his memory. 

While he stood brooding there, the door opened, 
and a nursemaid came out with a chubby boy in a 
jersey and knickerbockers. 

"Now mind the steps. Master Dick!" said the 
nursemaid. 

"I*m going to," said Master Dick. "I want to 
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count them as I go down. They're always diflferent 
when I count them coming up." 

Nick remembered his difficulty in counting these 
steps, and he looked at the small boy trotting down 
as though he was the ghost of his own small boy- 
hood, and before the nursemaid shut the door, he 
had a swift glance of the tiny hall which had been 
the scene of many an exciting drama in his life. The 
arrival of the Rocking Horse ! He remembered how 
Polly had unwrapped it in the hall, how Beauty 
had come out of the bedroom in her dressing-gown, 
to know the cause of all the noise. . . . 

The nursemaid looked at him suspiciously. 

"Do you want any one?" she asked. 

"No, thanks," said Nick. 

He walked downstairs again, and into the park, 
and he spent a whole afternoon groping back to the 
memories which had filled this place with ghosts — 
the adventures with Joan under the trees, the day 
when he had plucked out a handful of her hair, 
the day in which he had threatened to scalp her 
if she would not be his wife. But everything had 
changed and shrunk. Battersea Park was no longer 
a vast forest with fairy walks and magic waters. 
The grass was burned brown and littered with paper 
and orange peel. But the old owls were still in their 
cage, or successors of his friendly old owls. How 
frowsy they looked as they blinked in the sunlight I 
A squirrel was still hiding in its cage. He saw its 
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bright eyes peeping out. But it was no longer an 
enchanted creature. All the fairies had left the park, 
and he could not find the old hiding-places of mys- 
tery. There was a faded, dusty, bedraggled look 
about the place, which was filled with ragged urchins 
on half holiday, and his illusions of childhood were 
smashed. Nicholas Barton, sentimentalist, felt like 
Rip Van Winkle returning home from his long so- 
journ in the Catskill Mountains, to find that all his 
old playmates were dead and gone. 

Yet even now their ghosts were here. It was the 
faint perfume that came from a bank of flowers 
which revived their ghosts in Nick's mind. It was 
the sweet scent of wallflowers which made him stop 
suddenly and stare through the sunlight with a 
dreamy look, and with silly tears in his eyes. For 
some reason which he could not analyze the subtle 
perfume brought back Beauty's face to him, more 
vividly than he had ever remembered it. He saw 
her laughing eyes and teasing smile. He saw her 
in the blue dress and in the hat with pink roses, 
which she had worn one day when Danvers had met 
them by the duck-pond. At the thought of Dan- 
vers, the Beast, as he had called him, Nick gave a 
little shudder, as though an obscene spectre had 
stared at him through the sunlight, and he walked 
back to the studio which he shared with Jack 
Com3ms, almost regretting that he had revisited 
these scenes of his childhood. 
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G)myns noticed the tell-tale emotion in his eyes, 
and said: 

"Been seeing ghosts, Sir Nicholas Bare-bones?" 

"Yes," said Nick. "Any objection?" 

"Lots of objections," said Comyns. "You live 
too much with ghosts, my son. You should follow 
my noble example, and go in for human nature. It's 
much more healthy, and vastly more entertaining. 
Coming to that dance this evening? There will be 
some pretty bits of himianity to dally with." 

"I'm working,'' said Nick. 

The Honorable John Comyns, who was lymg at 
full stretch on a chintz-covered couch, with his hands 
behind his head, on a velvet cushion, sent one of 
his slippers hurtling at Nick's head, by a well- 
directed kick. 

"You old stick-in-the-mud!" he said. "I can't 
think why I chose you for my stable companion. 
You are a standing reproach to my imeasy con- 
science." 

"Perhaps I had better dear out," said Nick. "I 
can't aflford to pay equal shares, and you go in for 
too much beastly luxury. Besides " 

"Besides what?" said Jack Comyns, dangling his 
other slipper on the end of his toes. 

"We are utterly unsuited to each other. You 
are a well-to-do amateur, playing at art, and I am 
a poverty-stricken devil who must work for a liv- 
ing, or die. Look at my clothes, and look at yours ! 
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I wonder you're not ashamed to »be seen with me.*' 
"Great Scott !" said Comyns, addressing his speech 
to the ceiling. "The boy's at it again! As if I 
hadn't explained to him ad nauseam, that my col- 
ored socks and fancy ties are the nearest approach 
to art I shall ever get, and that his genius gives a 
shining light to this workshop which will one day 
cause the London County Council to send down a 
deputation in pot-hats with a medallion in honor of 
a famous man. *Here lived Nicholas Barton,, R.A. 
Also John Comyns, his unworthy friend.' The boy 
has got a swelled head. That's what it is. He de- 
spises poor old Jack Comyns. He's a snob of the 
first water." 

"Rot!" said Nick. 

"If you will hand me one of those cigarettes I 
will show you that it is not rot. Thanks. And the 
matches, if you don't mind. Good fellow. . . . 
A snob, I said. To justify that accusation I must 
point out to you that you are always drawing odious 
comparisons between my allowance and yours, be- 
tween my wardrobe and yours, and between my rich, 
dishonest, fat-minded father, and your poor, honest, 
and intellectual papa. You fling my ridiculous title 
of Honorable into my somewhat good-looking face, 
and you grouse because you have to cut the fringe 
oflf your trousers and shave your shirt-cuffs. If that 
is not a revelation of your inherent snobbishness, I 
should like to know what defence you have to offer?" 
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Nicholas had no defence. He merely murmured 
something about the impossibility of going to a 
dance looking like a tramp. 

This gave Comyns an opportunity for a further 
discourse. 

"My dear chap," he said, "you know perfectly 
well that Chelsea and the Fulham Road are the only 
places in London where the more a man looks like 
a tramp the better he is liked. It's a delightful pose 
which I try hard to cultivate, but with poor suc- 
cess. It's my beastly money, and my disgustingly 
luxurious upbringing which prevent me from being 
that social success to which I aspire in this artistic 
quarter. I know quite a lot of little girls living on 
next to nothing a week and starving stoically while 
they paint pictures which nobody will buy, who 
would love me much more than they do if I had 
holes in my boots and if I had to ask them to sew 
the buttons on my shirts." 

"I can't think why you play about down here," 
said Nick. "You would be in your jelement in 
Grosvenor Square." 

The second shoe came hurtling at Nick's head, 
and he dodged it just in time. 

"Damn your impudence!" said Comyns. "As if 
I hadn't a soul above Grosvenor Square! As if I 
don't get physically ill every time I go home and 
see my poor old dad getting fatter in the mind every 
day, surrounded by fat-minded people, wallowing in 
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well-to-do conventionality, and breathing in the 
stuffy atmosphere of wealth, sterilized of all ideas. 
Thank Heaven I have broken free from that blight- 
ing influence and escaped to a little sanctuary of 
art, idealism, and '' 

"Utter laziness" said Nick. 

*'Quite so," said Comyns, settling further down 
on the sofa. *That noble laziness which is such a 
contrast to the vulgar hustle of this modern world ; 
that laziness which gives a man time to cultivate 
his soul, to ponder over the beauties of the Eternal 
Beauty, to dream of great achievements which — 
he will never achieve." 

Nick laughed, as he always laughed when Jack 
Comyns rode his high horse and indulged in long 
monologues full of far-fetched conceits and eloquent 
periods, which was his favorite hobby. He would 
talk for hours about the great picture he proposed 
to paint, discuss it from an ethical, aesthetic and 
technical point of view, and conjure up visions of 
the fame and glory which would be his reward, all 
with such exaggerated language that it was quite 
obvious that he did not take himself seriously, even 
in the heat of his enthusiasm. Then, after half a 
day's work he would throw down his brushes, utter 
a number of violent oaths with regard to the failure 
of his first attempt, retire behind a screen for an 
elaborate ritual of washing, and emerge spick and 
span, to spend the rest of the day in preventing his 
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other friends from working. In the Academy 
Schools where Nick had encountered him, he re- 
ceived severe rebukes, or satirical comments, from 
the masters for his slipshod work and utter careless- 
ness. Yet they said that he had a quick eye and put 
a certain character and dash into his studies which 
showed that he might do better things if he took 
the trouble. Jack Comyns was satisfied with the 
knowledge that he might do better things if he took 
the trouble, but he postponed the day of trouble with 
light-hearted gaiety, and said, "Manana" like a 
Spanish Don. There was, indeed, a strain of Latin 
blood in this sprig of nobility who had wandered 
away from his class to mix with down-at-heel ar- 
tists, untidy girl students, free-and-easy artists' 
models, in that strange district whose boundaries 
He between the King's Road and the Fulham Road, 
and where hard work and scanty meals are accom- 
panied by a gaiety of spirits which takes the sting 
out of poverty while youth l^sts, or the pretence of 
youth. He had extended the hand of friendship to 
Nicholas Barton when that fellow-adventurer in art 
had been badly in need of friendship, having been 
chilled by the loneliness of his first months in Lon- 
don, when he hardly heard the sound of his own 
voice. Comyns had looked over his shoulder one 
day in the life class and said in his enthusiastic way, 
"By Jove! I would give my right hand to draw 
like that." 

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Nick was startled and embarrassed, but laughed 
at the queer compliment. 

"Without your right hand you couldn't draw at 
all." 

That was the introduction to their comradeship. 

"Look here," said Comyns, "let's have lunch to- 
gether. I hate eating alone, don't you?" 

Over the luncheon table Comyns had broken the 
ice of Nick's reserve, by rattling on in his egotistical 
way, by speaking with exaggerated enthusiasm of 
Nick's sketch book, upon which he had seized, with- 
out asking permission, and by plunging into a dis- 
cussion on the ethical purpose of art, so that Nick 
could not follow his high-flown arguments. Nicho- 
las summed up this new acquaintance as an egotist, 
a poseur, and a dandy, and made up his mind to de- 
test him very thoroughly, but, as the weeks passed, 
he had to admit to himself that the egotism of the 
Honorable Jack Comyns did not prevent him from 
being very generous in his praise of other men's 
work, that his pose was a harmless one which did 
not spoil his good-nature and sense of humor, and 
that his dandified appearance did not make him 
ashamed of walking arm in arm with Nick, whp was 
the shabbiest student at the Schools. Indeed, to 
Nick's astonishment, he was singled out by this ele- 
gant young man, among all other students who were 
eager for the friendship of such a dashing fellow, 
and made to accept many small favors from him, 
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which he could not hope to repay — ^luncheons when 
he would have checked his hunger with a bun, elab- 
orate little dinners in Soho restaurants, when he 
would have gone home to a lonely lodging for very 
frugal fare. He could not understand why Comyns 
desired his friendship, for he was as ignorant as a 
child of the great life in which that young man 
had graduated, and he had none of the conversa- 
tional brilliance which sparkled on the lips of a man 
who was never so happy as when he was talking on 
big subjects in an airy way. He put the question 
bluntly to his friend when the idea was first pro- 
posed that Nick should share his studio, at a small 
cost. 

"What can I give you in return? I am a dull 
dog, as you know, and a hard worker. I can't afford 
to play about." 

**My dear fellow," said Comyns, "I don't want 
you to play about. Heaven forbid that you should 
play about! The honest truth is that I find in you 
qualities of character which I have never struck 
before, and which are entirely lacking from my own 
degenerate soul. I believe we should get on fa- 
mously for that reason, and you would do me a heap 
of good — intellectually, morally, and spiritually." 

"What qualities?" asked Nick, "I am not con- 
scious of them." 

"That's your great gift," said Comyns. "You 
haven't a hap'orth of self-consciouSness. What 
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qualities? Well, first of all, an idealism which 
dwells on the hill-tops, secondly, the innocence of a 
mediaeval saint who has come from a cloister into 
a naughty world. Thirdly, a romantic temperament 
which will inevitably lead to your undoing, unless 
you have a cynic at your elbow. I propose to be 
that cynic, though without spoiling your lofty ideals 
and beautiful romanticism, except in so far as you 
must be hardened against the rude buffets of actual- 
ity and safeguarded against the lures of witch- 
women." 

At first Nicholas believed that Comyns really 
wanted to save him from the life of semi-starvation 
which he had been leading since his arrival in Lon- 
don, and that underneath all his friend's insincerity 
and carelessness there was a generous strain which 
made him choose the poorest, shabbiest fellow in 
the schools to "dig'' with him. For this reason he 
shirked the idea, and refused it proudly. He did 
not want the charity of Comyns, nor of any one else, 
except those good friends at Barhampton who had 
staked their faith on his success. But when he be- 
gan to realize that Comyns was prepared to make a 
friend of him on terms of perfect social equality, 
his guard was broken down, and he escaped from 
the lonely squalor of his lodgings into a studio of 
which the best piece of furniture was a gay com- 
panion. 

For the first time in his life Nicholas Barton knew 
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the joy of true comradeship. Having lived mostly 
with people much older than himself it was a new 
and splendid thing to have a friend of his own years, 
and such a friend as Comyns, who was utterly can- 
did, infinitely amusing, and unfailingly good- 
natured. It was true that he had many exasperating 
qualities, but Nick pardoned them all. His laziness 
was so incurable that he would often stay in bed 
until it was time for Itmcheon, or spend the morn- 
ing in his dressing-gown, reading French novels and 
smoking cigarettes, when Nick was putting in a 
hard morning's work. He was villainously and out- 
rageously untidy, littering the studio with his socks 
and ties, razors, shirts and boots. Though profess- 
ing to scorn the conventions of fashion, his own 
toilet took him a solid hour, and was the result of 
careful cogitation upon the state of the weather, and 
his particular mood. Though admiring the industry 
of his "stable companion," he did his best to make 
work impossible in his company, by singing florid 
Italian operas, by dancing the two-step, and over- 
turning the furniture, by interviewing the char- 
women at great length upon the state of their souls 
and the conditions of their home life ("I am a great 
student of sociology" was his excuse to Nick) ; by 
wasting the time of artists' models whose services 
were not required, and lastly and interminably, by 
discussing human life from every possible angle, 
and literature in a spirit of the higher criticism. 

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His views on life were pagan and non-moral, his 
views on literature austere. He had read widely in 
French as well as in English, and could quote 
Rabelais, Villon, Baudelaire and Montaigne, with as 
much ease as he could recite Shakespeare's Sonnets, 
Swinburne's lyrics, and Meredith's prose. There 
were times when Nicholas was startled with the 
licentiousness of his speech, and by the utter cyni- 
cism with which he spoke of women in the abstract 
— not like a young man of twenty-two, but like an 
old and embitt^ed man, whose life had been wrecked 
by a woman's cruelty. Yet watching his relations 
with individual women, with the girl students whom 
he invited to tea on Saturday afternoons, and with 
the artist g^rls to whom he "stood treat" in Soho 
restaurants, Nicholas, who curled up into his own 
shell on these occasions, saw nothing in his behavior 
beyond an easy gallantry and a spirit of good fun. 
To Jack Comyns he owed great bursts of laughter 
which swept the megrims out of his brain, long talks 
in which everything 'twixt Heaven and earth was 
analyzed, criticized, ticked off, as though no more 
could ever be said about it, long walks, beginning late 
at night and ending with the dawn which crept above 
the house-tops, in which all conclusions were upset, 
and all subjects thrashed out again. Fantastic 
theories were upheld doggedly by Com3ms,* he ad- 
vanced absurdities with the gravity of a philosopher, 
and jeered at tragedy itself with the flippancy of a 
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court jester. They went together into the foulest 
slums of the East End, and stared at naked poverty 
and at vice without disguise, and though Com3ms 
scoffed even at this human misery, and pronounced 
harsh verdicts upon its victims, there were many 
times when he slipped a coin into the hand of some 
poor wretch who begged of him, thus contradicting 
his own views on the need of brutality and the law 
of the jungle. 

"Weakness! Sheer weakness!" he said, when 
called upon for his defence by Nick. "Intellectually 
I am a despot, at the heart of me I am a sloppy 
sentimentalist; and I have no strength of will. But 
the weakness of my actions does not disprove the 
verity of my opinions. Now, you, my dear Nick, 
are an intellectual sentimentalist, which, I assure 
you, is a very false and fatal thing." 

"I decline to wear a label," said Nick. "I am 
merely in search of truth." 

"And you wear rose-colored spectacles on your 
journey. My dear chap, I advise you to look at 
life through plain glass windows." 

So they "jawed," foolishly often, wisely some- 
times, but always uplifted with the joyous arrogance 
of youth, and drunk with the wine that is made in 
youth's first vintage. It was the Honorable John 
Comyns who kept the cooler head. 

It was John Comyns who shook his cool head and 
wagged a forefinger when Nicholas Barton told 
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him, late one night, the story of his boyhood, of 
Beauty, his mother, who had gone away, and of his 
father who had thrust her qut of his life and heart. 

He ended his tale abruptly and with great emo- 
tion. 

"Jack, old man," he said, "I have met her again, 
after all these years. I found her to-day." 

It was then that John Comyns shook his cool head 
and wagged his forefinger. 

**My lad," he said, "it's the worst thing possible. 
Mark my words, you'll be devilish sorry for it. That 
father of yours is a good sort, and you know him 
to the bone. But your lady mother, if you will 
forgive my saying so, is a most uncertain quantity. 
You can't tell what influence she will have upon 
you. It will probably be thoroughly bad. I know 
those actresses. I've met some of 'em . . . You 
never know which way they will jump." 

For the first time since their friendship began 
Nicholas took umbrage with the candid Comyns ; on 
that day when he had found Beauty again he was in 
no mood for cynicism. He was overwhelmefi with 
an emotion that broke down the bulwarks of his 
young manhood and made a child of him again. 

Beauty had come back to him ! 



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CHAPTER II 

THE UNKNOWN MOTHER 

Nicholas found his mother in the Princess's The- 
atre. He was sitting in the front row of the pit, 
with a girl on one side of him who was eating a 
prodigious quantity of chocolates before the rise of 
the curtain, and with a man on the other side who 
was reading the police court news in the Daily Tel- 
egraph. It was a new problem play by the celebrated 
dramatist, Starling Finch, and the theatre was 
crowded with the mtellectuals, the pit especially be- 
ing crammed with fluffy-haired women with long 
necks and big eyes, and sallow-faced young men who 
had come in a spirit of earnest criticism. The play 
opened with the usual dialogue between two servants 
in a smart household, who discussed the morality 
of their mistress and her latest carryings on with 
that psychological insight which seems to be devel- 
oped below stairs, and then the mistress herself en- 
tered with the announcement that she was not at 
home to anybody but Mr. Farquhar. At least that 
was her line, but a round of applause which greeted 
her entrance postponed the statement until silence 
had been restored. Nicholas turned to his pro- 
gramme to find out the name of the actress, who 
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was obviously somebody of importance. It was new 
to him — Miss Audrey Vivian — and he saw by some 
Words between brackets that she had just returned, 
from her "Triumphal tour*' in the States. Then, 
while he was looking at his programme, she spoke 
her words, and at the sound of her voice, and of a 
peculiar little laugh which followed, he jerked his 
head up and listened with an intense desire to hear 
her speak again, and stared at the woman's face 
with all his soul in his eyes. He was certain that 
it was Beauty long before the end of the first act. 
Gradually as the play developed he found himself 
remembering all sorts of characteristics which be- 
longed to Beauty and were now revealed by this 
woman on the stage, who could be none other than 
Beauty — ^the poise of the head, a curious little trick 
of raising herself on tip-toe with her hands clasped 
behind her neck, a habit of sitting down abruptly 
and then immediately rising from the chair and pac- 
ing up and down in a restless way, a quaint man- 
nerism of half shutting her eyes when she listened 
to somebody speaking, and then opening them very 
wide with a look of surprise. All these things, which 
he had forgotten, were suddenly remembered, as 
though the little cupboards in his brain had been un- 
locked by secret keys. But above all it was her 
voice which made him sure of Beauty. Every time 
she spoke and laughed he was thrilled by the sound 
which seemed to call back to his childhood. It was 
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a voice which had haunted him in his dreams. It 
was the voice which had spoken over his cradle, and 
taught him the meaning of words, and laughed at 
the first jokes of his life. It was Beauty's voice ! And 
presently this woman on the stage, who was acting 
the part of a gay-hearted creature, ignorant as yet 
of the tragedy which was to smash her in the sec- 
ond act, sang a little song as she touched the notes 
of the piano. It was just a line or two, tending sud- 
denly as the door opened, but those fev^ notes were 
enough to stir old chords in Nick's heart, for they 
belonged to a song which Beauty had sung to him 
a score of times as he sat on the magic carpet of 
Bagdad in the drawing-room of the top-floor flat 
He remembered the words: 

Once a boy a wild rose spied 

In the hedge-row growing, 
Fresh in all her youthful pride. 
When her beauties he descried, 

Joy in his heart was glowing. 

The girl who had been eating chocolates industri- 
ously was startled by seeing the young man at her 
side rise in his seat, and after groping for his hat 
make his way out from the first row of the pit. 
Her eyes followed him, and she saw how pale he 
was, and what shining eyes he had. She was quite 
sure that he had been taken ill, and felt angry when 
several people in the back rows called out, *^Sit 
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down!" It was before the end of the first act, but 
Nicholas Barton did not return to see the second 
and third acts. For a long while he paced about the 
streets in the neighborhood of the theatre. He was 
too excited even to think out a plan of action. One 
thought only throbbed through his brain, the thought 
that after all those years Beauty was back again, 
back in his life. He returned to the theatre and 
made his way round to the stage door, deciding to 
send up his name and ask to see her. But he had 
to walk up and down again, with his hat off, so 
that the wind blew into his face, before he could 
steady himself down sufficiently to ask the man in- 
side the office whether he could see Miss Vivian 
between the acts. 

"ril inquire. . . . Got a card?" 

"I'll write a note." 

Nick tore out a leaf from his sketch book, which 
he had taken to the theatre with him, and wrote 
a few words on it. 

Dearest Beauty: 

Will you see me ? 

Your son, Nick. 

He was kept waiting ten minutes, which seemed 
as long as ten times ten minutes to a young man 
whose emotion had made him feel a little drunk, 
so that he breathed deeply and jerkily, and had to 
moisten his lip« with his tongue to gain some self- 
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control. For he knew that this meeting with his 
mother, if she consented to see him, would be a 
great adventure, and that his life would not be the 
same after he had seen her as before. 

Presently the man poked his head through the 
swing door and said : 

"Gentleman to see Miss Vivian?" 

Nick followed him along a narrow passage and 
up a long flight of stone steps, until he tapped at 
a door, and said, "She's inside.'* 

A voice called out "Come in!*' and Nick opened 
the door and found himself face to face with his 
mother. 

She stood at the far end of the room, with her 
back turned to a large mirror on a little table where 
candles were burning. Her face was pamted and 
powdered, and her eyes pencilled so that they seemed 
very big and lustrous, and she wore a stage frock 
of black net over crimson silk, cut very low at her 
bosom. She stood quite silent for a moment, star- 
ing at Nick, while all her natural color faded be- 
neath her paint so that she was quite white except 
where her cheeks were dabbed with red. Nicholas 
stood silent also, in the doorway, gazing at the 
woman hungrily, as though his eyes were seeking 
for the mother he had known and could not quite 
find her. Then he faltered forward, and with a 
queer kind of sob in his throat said : 

"Beauty!" 

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She held out her hands to him, cold hands which 
he seized and raised to his lips. 

"Nick ! Good heavens, it can't be my little Nick !'' 

She put her head on one side, glancing up at him 
with half-shut eyes, and then, with her hands flut- 
tering up to her throat, gave a strange, excited 
laugh. 

"I can't believe it ! It's impossible ! I remembered 
my little Nick as a tiny boy. Have so many years 
gone by?" 

"I have been waiting for you all this time," said 
Nick. 

*'How many years?" asked Beauty. "It seems 
only the other day since ..." 

Sh^ did not finish her sentence, but drooped her 
head a little. 

"Fourteen years," said Nick. 

Beauty opened her eyes wide. 

"Good Lord! I must be an old woman, and I 
have never noticed it." 

She turned round to the table and seized a silver 
hand-mirror and looked at the image of her own 
face, with a vague smile about her lips. 

"No, I can't hide the crows' feet. I can't paint 
myself young again. I suppose the years have 
marked me more than I imagined. Nick — do I look 
frightfully old?" 

"You look as young as when I saw you last,'* 
said Nick. Then he added in a faltering voice, 
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"Almost as young." For he coxild not hide from 
himself that this was not quite the Beauty of his 
dreams. Her face had hardened a little. It had 
the sharp lines of a woman who had passed through 
the ordeal of suffering and was not quite unscathed. 
He wished he had not seen her for the first time 
after all those years so heavily painted and thickly 
powdered. It made her look a little coarse. It 
dragged down the ideal of her beauty which he had 
treasured in his memory. 

"You should not have added that 'almost/ " said 
Beauty. "It spoiled a very pretty compliment, just 
as it had bucked me up no end." 

Nick wished she had not used that last phrase. 
The first time he had heard it, after coming to town, 
was on the lips of a vulgar little artist's model. 

"My word!" said Beauty, who was now sitting 
down on a sofa fumbling for a cigarette from a 
silver case, "you are a tall and handsome fellow, 
Mr. Nick! If you weren't my son I should be 
tempted to fall in love with you." 

"I want you to," said Nick. 

"I shall have to be very careful," said Beauty. 
"I can't even imagine that youVe my son. It's the 
funniest thing in the world." 

She laughed in a hysterical way, and then puffed 
at her cigarette once or twice, before flinging it away 
in the fireplace. 

"Why funny, mother?" asked Nick. 
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"Well, for one thing, I had quite forgotten I was 
a mother. I had wiped it right out of mind just as 
one cleans a slate. And now you come back, grown- 
up, and I find myself sitting in my own dressing- 
room with a handsome young stranger who calls 
me mother. It's an impossible situation. I can't 
act up to it." 

Nick was silent. He was dimly conscious of a 
sense of pain because Beauty had wiped out the 
memory of him during all those years when he had 
been clinging to his memory of her. 

*l'm conscious of missing my part most fright- 
fully," said Beauty. "Here you are, a long-lost son, 
and here am I, a guilty and remorseful mother. 
What a chance for emotion! I know I ought to 
burst into tears, and clasp you to my breast and 
say, *Oh, my de-arling bo-oy !' and then faint grace- 
fully away. But I can't! I can't squeeze out one 
little tear. I want to laugh. I can't even clasp you 
to my breast, because it would be like embracing a 
gentleman visitor whom I have never dropped eyes 
on before. I should feel horribly embarrassed. Do 
you mind if I laugh again?" 

Whether he minded or not, she clasped her hands 
behind her head, and laughed until more than one 
little tear came into her eyes, so that she had to un- 
clasp her hands and mop her eyes with a little lace 
handkerchief. 

"If I go on like this I shall have to make up again, 
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which would be a horrid bore. As it is, Mr. Nick, 
you have put me off my part altogether. I must 
really rebuke you for calling on a long-lost mother 
between the acts of a play on which her reputation 
is staked. In another two minutes I have got to pull 
myself out for a big scene.*' 

The words sounded flippant and callous to Nick, 
who was craving for motherly sentiment, who was 
stirred with an enormous emotion, who at the sight 
of this woman could scarcely keep back the tears 
which struggled to sweep down the barriers of his 
self-control and to shake his body with sobs. Yet 
he saw that beneath Beauty's attempts at light- 
hearted fun, she too was stirred, and that she rattled 
on like this to hide a nervous excitement, and that 
her laughter did not ring quite true, and that the 
tears which she had mopped from her eyes were not 
those of mere mirth. Indeed, her mood changed 
suddenly and she sprang up from the sofa and came 
swiftly across to the chair where he sat with his 
hands clasped between his knees, and put her face 
against his cheek for a moment 

"I know you think I am a foolish stony-hearted 
creature ! You see, you have taken me by surprise. 
I hardly know whether I am standing on my head 
or my heels. Give me a kiss, little, big Nick, before 
I go on to the stage again." 

He kissed her on the cheek, and she blushed under 
her powder and paint, and said : 
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V 

"After all, it will be fun to have a son. It is 
good to be kissed by a handsome young man, with- 
out offending the proprieties. . . . Not that I 
care a little hang for them." 

There was a tap on the door, and Beauty said, 
"It's getting near my cue. I must go as quick as 
Billy-o." 

She darted to the table, and powdered her face' 
with swift dabs. 

"When shall I see you again?" asked Nick. 

"Not to-night," said Beauty. "I'm going out to 
supper with — with a friend. Come to lunch with 
me to-morrow at the Hilarity restaurant. One 
o'clock, sharp. I will put on my bestest best things 
for you, so that you shall see Beauty in all her 
glory." 

Standing at the door, she put her hands up to her 
lips and blew a kiss at him, and then darted out of 
the room. 

Nick found his way down to the stage door again, 
and went out of the theatre. He did not want to 
see the third act. He wanted to think out this new 
situation, to find out its bearings upon his life, to 
foresee its future working out. One thing startled 
him, as in the old days he had been startled by great 
discoveries. He did not know his own mother ! She 
was a perfect stranger to him, as he was a stranger 
to her. For the first time he realized that his knowl- 
edge of this woman dated back to the time when 
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fourteen years ago she had slipped out of his life, 
and that his memory of her had not been the memory 
of a real woman, but the memory of a child's ideal 
V of a woman. Now, meeting her, in his young man- 

hood, in her maturity, the dream had become an tm- 
reality, and he had found himself in the presence 
of a mother of whom he knew nothing, except 
through the rose-mists of a childish imagination, and 
by the bitter words of the husband she had deserted. 
To know her he would have to explore her nature 
as though he had just been bom afresh, he would 
have to find out her kindness or unkindness, every 
trait of her character, every idea and opinion, as 
though he had just been "introduced*' to her. Yet, 
because she was his mother, he yearned toward her, 
and because of the dream he had cherished he was 
prepared to worship her, with the worshipftd heart 
of youth for the ideal of motherhood. 

One thought, however, which he tried to thrust 
out of his brain, kept stabbing him like the pain of 
a raw nerve. It was the thought of Danvers^— "the 
Beast" — ^the man with whom Beauty had gone away 
fourteen years ago. Was she still living with him? 
He shuddered — ^the idea of meeting that man with 
Beauty as his wife filled him with a sickening sense 
of horror. He would want to get his hands about 
the man's throat, to take a brutal vengeance for all 
the years of his motherless life, to finish the punish- 
ment which Bristles had begun on that day of drama 
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in Canterbury. It would never do for him to meet 
Danvers. The mere remeriibrance of him threat- 
ened to spoil this meeting with Beauty, the long- 
desired. 

It haunted him even when he sat with Beauty in 
the Hilarity restaurant, where many eyes glanced 
over at this laughing woman who seemed only a 
few years older than the young man who sat op- 
posite to her, listening to her chatter. One question 
trembled on his lips, though for a long time he had 
not the courage to speak it. 

"Where is that man — Danvers ?'* 

But Beauty did not give him a chance to ask 
that question over the luncheon table. She had 
kept him waiting for his meal until he believed she 
would not come at all, and when she came suddenly, 
dashing up in a hansom cab, and springing down to 
him with a little laugh, he hardly knew her as the 
same woman he had seen the night before, because 
the powder had been wiped off her face, and the thick 
paint no longer raddled her cheeks, though she had 
left a faint touch of color there, and in a light 
blue frock, with a broad-brimmed straw hat on 
which a great white feather lay curled like a sleeping 
bird, this mother seemed to him like a young girl. 
She was almost the Beauty of his dreams. 

She gave him her hand, like a girl to her lover, 
and during the meal chatted to him as gaily as 
though no tragedy had divided them for years, and 
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as though he were a young cavalier paying homage 
to her charms. She spoke no intimate word, no 
word of motherly emotion, she made no allusion to 
the old days of Nick's childhood, and not by any 
sign showed that she gave a thought to the father 
of her son. She gave a vivid account of her toiir 
in the States, with a comical mimicry of American 
women, with an exaggerated caricature of American 
manners, and she expressed her joy at being in old 
England again, where she had not been forgotten. 

"I can afford to ask big fees now !" she said, with 
a triumph in her voice. "I made a pot of money 
in America, and I shall skedaddle back again if busi- 
ness is slack on this side." 

'*Are you rich ?" asked Nick. 

She pursed up her lips. 

"Rich is a big word. I can do myself pretty well, 
but my ambitions are much bigger than my means. 
They always were!" 

She looked across at Nick, and seemed to notice 
the shabbiness of his clothes for the first time. 

"You don't seem very flourishing. What are you 
doing with yourself?" 

Nick told her about his art studies, but he broke 
off in the middle of a sentence, for Beauty did not 
seem interested, and was listening with only half 
an ear, while she gazed round the restaurant and 
gave a smiling greeting to a Jewish-looking man 
at one of the tables. 

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It was in the smoking lounge that Nick asked the 
question which had been trembling on his lips. He 
spoke it abruptly and awkwardly, while Beauty was 
leaning back blowing out a coil of smoke and gaz- 
ing at him with half-closed eyes and a smile on 
her lips. 

*'What has become of — of that man — ^Danvers?'' 

At these words Beauty's smile faded out, and her 
eyes opened suddenly with a stare of surprise, and 
the cigarette trembled in her hand. She was white 
to the lips. 

"What do you know about him?" she asked in 
a queer voice. Then, without waiting for an answer, 
she said, "Please don't mention that name again, or 
I shall quarrel with you. It's one of the things I 
have forgotten." 

Nicholas Barton was not long in learning that 
his mother had a wonderful gift which enabled her 
to forget the things which she did not wish to re- 
member. Indeed, her memory did not seem to go 
back much further than the day before yesterday, 
and yesterday to her was a long way off. 

Nicholas asked Beauty another question which an- 
noyed her, though he could not guess why. 

"Are you living alone now?" 

Beauty hesitated for a moment, and then gave a 
rather harsh laugh. 

"From a man of the world I should regard that 
question as an insult." 

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Nick was astounded, and seeing the look of pained 
surprise in his eyes, she leaned forward and thrust 
her fingers through his hair, and said in a coaxing 
voice : 

"Little Nick, what a simple boy you be!" 

She added also that he was a pretty boy, and she 
was proud of him, though to have such a tall son 
would give her age away to all the world. 

"Have you fallen in love yet, Nick?'* she asked, 
looking at him with a teasing smile. 

Nick blushed uncomfortably, and said: 

"Not yet." 

But he thought of Joan Darracott, whom he had 
lost in the world. 

"Oh, surely !" said Beauty. "Why, a young man 
of your age ought to be in love with half a dozen 
nice girls. My dear boy, your education has been 
neglected." 

"I have my work to do," said Nick very gravely. 

Beauty made a grimace. 

"Beastly nuisance, work. How I loathe it!" 

Then she leaned forward and fondled one of 
Nick's hands, and spoke with a little thrill of emo- 
tion in her voice. 

"I haven't done much for you as a mother, Nick. 
Not since those days which I have wiped off the 
slate. But now I'll make amends. Thank the Lord 
I've made a bit of boodle, and I am going to give 
you a good time. You and I will have lots of fun, 
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Nick. You must chuck your work for a time and 
play about with me." 

Nick drummed a tattoo on his knees with nervous 
fingers. 

"I want to see as much of you as I can, mother, 
but I can't give up my work. I have got to stick to 
it. You see, I have got to pay back the people who 
are finding the money for me." 

He had told her already about the Merman, the 
Lonely Lady and the Admiral. 

"I'll pay 'em back," said Beauty. "How much? 
A hundred pounds ?" 

"It isn't exactly the money," said Nick. "I have 
got to pay back other things, their belief in me, and 
all that. I have a chance of winning the Gold 
Medal — ^at least they think so at the Schools — and 
if I slog away I think I might pull it off." 

"Oh, hang the Gold Medal!" said Beauty. "I 
will buy you one for your watch chain to-morrow." 

Nicholas laughed. 

"It wouldn't be quite the same thing, would it?" 

Beauty pouted at her son. 

"You are getting tired of me already." 

"I shall never get tired of you," said Nick, "not 
if I live for a hundred years." 

"Well, then, you must play with me," said Beauty. 
"Now that I've got a good-looking son I shall make 
the most of him. I am greedy for you, Nick." 
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"Thanks, mother/' said Nick, laughing again. "I 
have been hungry for you all my life." 

She fondled his hand again, and then for the first 
time asked a question about the man who had been 
her husband. 

"Is your father still alive? Sulky old Bristles?'' 

"Yes," said Nick. 

"I suppose he hates me like poison." 

Nick was silent. He felt horribly embarrassed. 
A sense of the tremendous tragedy which had di- 
vided his father from this woman overwhelmed him. 

Beauty did not press her inquiries. She gave one 
of her queer little laughs, and said: 

"He was always hard on me. But I don't blame 
him. I led him an awful dance." 

That was all she said about the man who had 
been her husband. She gave a quick gesture, as 
though wiping him from the slate, and then com- 
manded Nick to accompany her to the nearest tailor, 
so that she might not be ashamed of his shabbiness. 

"My dear boy," she said, "if you had not the 
face of an artistic archangel you would look like a 
tramp who sleeps in his clothes." 

She was reckless in her orders to the tailor, and 
a week later Nick was abashed by the delivery of 
a parcel at the studio door containing three suits for 
morning wear and an evening dress suit of a most 
elegant cut. He was abashed, not because they came 
as a surprise to him, but because John Comyns gave 
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a howl of laughter, and after a few words of amaze- 
ment, laughed again, until the tears came into his 
eyes. 

"This beats everything in my eventful career," 
he said, when he had recovered his composure. 
"That Nicholas Barton should exchange his old blue 
serge for purple and fine linen is more than a joke. 
It's a ridiculous miracle. It's a monstrous farce. 
It's a most comic and grotesque tragedy. No won- 
der I have to mop my eyes !" 

"I am glad it gives you so much amusement," 
said Nick, trying to hide his embarrassment. "But 
I fail to see why. I suppose I have a right to dress 
decently, as far as my means allow." 

"That's where you are wrong," said Comyns. 
"My dear old man, you can't be a genius any more 
if you wear togs like that. Those are the sort of 
clothes I should wear, and other brainless fools of 
my style. But Nick Barton, who is out to win the 
Gold Medal, young Nick, who is the pride of the 
Fulham Road, must be threadbare at the elbows and 
wear trousers which bag at the knee and fray at 
the edges. You can't serve God and Mammon, or 
Art and the Haberdasher." 

He lit a cigarette, sat on the edge of the model's 

throne, and gazed very solemnly at Nicholas, who 

proceeded to hang up his clothes on various vaoant 

pegs, with an air of callous indifference to the re- 

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marks of his friend and the glory of his new gar- 
ments. 

"If you're not very careful, young feller/' said 
Comyns, "you'll be getting into the social push, and 
then good-by Art and good-by glory. With them 
clothes on and that Don Quixote-Sir Galahad- John 
Halifax-Gentleman look of yours, you'll be invited 
to afternoon tea-parties in Mayfair, and little din- 
ners at the Carlton. Pretty girls with the brains of 
bunny rabbits will say how sweet it must be to paint 
pictures, and how shocking it must be to know so 
many artists' models, and then you'll let your hair 
grow long to please the dear creatures, and all your 
manhood will be emasculated and all your ideals 
vanish, tmtil you get softening of the brain. By 
God, I am sorry for you, Nick, and one of my illu- 
sions has gone smash." 

Nick swore a mighty oath. 

"I'll hurl something at your head if you talk such 
rot," he growled. "I am going to work harder than 
ever, but that's no reason why I shouldn't take an 
evening off now and again and dress the part." 

"Oh, Nick, Nick!" sai4 Comyns, "I'm ashamed 
of you. I loved your shabbiness and adored your 
austerity in the service of Art. But, if you are going 
to put on glad clothes, for the Lord's sake don't 
wear a made-up tie!" 

In spite of his gloomy prophecies of impending 
evil, he assisted at Nick's toilet, and in spite of that 
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young man's protests cast at his unwilling feet a 
brand-new pair of patent shoes, flung over to him 
a spotless white shirt, and in due course initiated him 
into the awful mysteries of tying a bow in the way 
it should go." 

Then he stood him at arm's length and pro- 
nounced judgment. 

"If you only knew what to do with your hands 
you would look like a blood, my boy. You have the 
air of an aristocrat descended from William the 
Conqueror, with more than a touch of Plantagenet. 
You might even be the hero of a musical comedy. 
But it will be a horrid shock to the-Fulham Road." 

It was a horrid shock to Nick himself when he 
caught a full-length sight of himself in a glass at the 
hotel near Charing Cross, where Beauty had a suite 
of rooms. He hardly knew himself in the image of 
a dandified fellow with a waistline. His collar 
choked him, and he felt foolish about the feet, and 
terribly weak about the knees, when he made his 
way through the vestibule where young ladies in 
evening dress stared at him as he passed. But 
Beauty gave a little scream of delight when she saw 
him, and dropped a very low curtsey to him as 
though he were a Prince of the Blood Royal. 

"Dear God !" she said, "and there are some people 
who say that clothes do not make the man ! Nick, 
you are a credit to your country, and to your mother, 
too." 

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Then she whispered to him : 

"I am glad you look so smart to-night. I am 
going to introduce you to some of my friends." 

"Oh, Lord !" said Nick, "I thought you were go- 
ing to be alone." 

He was panic-stricken. 

But Beauty took him by the hand and led him 
to the drawing-room of her private suite, looking 
very queenly in her white silk gown cut square 
across the breast, and with a circlet of pearls upon 
her hair. 

She stood in the doorway, hand in hand with 
Nick, who saw, through a kind of mist before his 
eyes, half a dozen men and women in evening 
clothes, and heard them, as though a very long way 
off, clapping hands at the reappearance of Beauty. 

Beauty made a speech, still clasping his hand. 

"Dear friends, I promised you a surprise to-night. 
I told you that I would show you all a great treasure 
which previously I have hidden from you, because I 
feared that one of you might try to steal it from 
me. But now, lest I should be guilty of too much 
selfishness, I produce this treasure, begging the 
pretty ladies here to refrain from covetousness, and 
from the game of greedy-grab. Ladies and gentle- 
men, I present to you my son, Nicholas, student of 
art, and most perfect gentle knight." 

These words, spoken as though they were 
Shakespearian verse, in a silvery cadence, were 
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greeted with laughter, applause, and cries of in- 
credulity. 

"Extremely well spoken,'' said a marfs voice. 
"But though the words were charming you don't ex- 
pect us to believe them?" 

Nicholas, who had recovered his composure after 
the first deep flush which had been a signal of dis- 
tress, saw that these words had been spoken by the 
Jewish-looking man to whom Beauty had smiled 
across the Hilarity restaurant. 

"I do not expect any one to believe the truth," 
said Beauty. "It is only lies which are convincing." 

"Good epigram !" said another voice. "Oh, devil- 
ish good, Miss Vivian. You got that from a play, 

riibetr 

This was spoken by a man with a rather flabby 
face like a baby of mature growth. He wore a nv)n- 
ode from which was suspended a broad black ribbon. 

"A poor thing, Lord Burpham, but mine own," 
said Beauty. 

A girl came over with a swish of skirts to Beauty 
and Nicholas Barton. She was a girl of about twen- 
ty-two, and Nicholas was astonished when her 
mother introduced her as Lady Biupham. She 
seemed far too young to be the wife of that baby- 
faced man with the monocle, who, in spite of his 
pink flabbiness had crows' feet about his eyes. 

"Here's a pretty boy, now what shall we do with' 
this pretty boy?" said the girl, taking Nick's hand 
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and holding it so that he became seriously embar- 
rassed. 

"Be kind to him/' said Beauty, "and remember 
his youthful innocence." 

"Kitty's youthful innocence would pervert the 
morals of an anchorite," said Lord Burpham. 

"As the wife of Baby Burpham," said the girl, 
very calmly, "my innocence is in the Lost Property 
Office." 

There was general laughter at this confession, and 
at the end of it the Jewish-looking man, who Nich- 
olas learned was Amos Rosenbaum, a theatrical 
manager in a large way of business, made the quiet 
observation that innocence was a much over-rated 
virtue and not worth a row of beans. 

It was an evening — the first of many such eve- 
nings — which provided Nicholas with new knowledge 
of human nature, but with no real enjoyment. Al- 
ways he had an uncomfortable feeling that the social 
atmosphere of his mother's rooms was not good for 
his health of mind, and as a listener and a looker-on 
he heard and saw things which made him wince, 
which made him hate some of those people whom 
Beauty called her friends. They were very free in 
their speech and manners, and one of the women 
used swear words with an easy familiarity which as- 
totmded Nicholas, who had kept his lips clean. Kitty 
Burpham made a habit of it This elegant girl, with 
hair like fine-sptm gold, and with big blue eyes which 
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had a flower-like beauty, used oaths which would 
have called for rebuke in a cabman's shelter. When 
Nicholas ventured one day to remonstrate with her, 
she laughed in his face, and said, with the utmost 
good-nature: 

"Oh, bli'my, I can't change my vocabulary at my 
time of life. You must pitch into my baby-faced 
husband, who taught me his stable lingo before I 
had been married a week to him." 

"I should try to get out of the habit If I were 
you," said Nick. 

Kitty Burpham made a grimace at him. 

"Oh, you would, would you, Mr. Prig-too-GrOod- 
to-Live?" 

It was with this girl, who had the temper of a 
tiger-cat at times, and the abandon of a French co- 
quette, that Nicholas found himself most at ease 
when he went to his mother's rooms, because, in spite 
of her desire to embarrass him by saying risky 
things, and to shame him by "taking him down a 
peg" as she called it, she had comradely ways also, 
and would often throw down her cards at the table 
where Beauty and her guests were playing, and say : 

"This is bally rot, and IVe lost quite enough for 
one night. I'm going to keep company with Sir 
Nicholas of the lily-white soul." 

Then she would lead him by the hand to the end 
of the room, where the piano stood, and play queer 
little tunes to him, and sing queer little songs to him 
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in a French argot which it was well that he could 
not understand And between the tunes and the 
songs she would smile into Nick's face, and make 
outrageous remarks about the company present in 
a voice too low for them to hear. 

Nicholas remembers some of these flashes of char- 
acter study which made him shiver. 

"Amos Rosenbaum has the brain of a vulture, the 
heart of a tiger, and the tongue of a snake. He is 
a beast of prey, and mesmerises his women before 
he devours them. He is trying to put his coils round 
your lady mother. Look how he smiles at her. 
Did you ever see such a Satanic smile?" . . . 
"That chubby-faced husband of mine! 
A pretty boy, isn't he? . . . He's a satyr. He 
has cloven hoofs inside those patent leather shoes 
of his. When I married him I thought him such 
a dear, comical thing. He seemed such a kind- 
hearted, brainless dear. I didn't know that he was 
a wolf in sheep's clothing. Funny thing! We still 
live together, though we hate each other like devils. 
I suppose it's so difficult to break a habit. Your lady 
mother likes him. He amuses her, and I will say 
she has a sense of humor. There's no love lost be- 
tween him and Rosenbaum, and I think your pretty 
mother is the cause of it Oh, there's a lot of drama 
in real life." 

"Lady Burpham," said Nicholas, very sternly, "I 
must ask you to leave my mother's name out of your 

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conversation. Otherwise I shall never speak to you 
ag^n." 

"Tut, tut!" said Lady Burpham. "Don't put on 
your ctu-ate airs with me, little boy. If you don't like 
n^ sprightly monologues, you can run away and 
play with your Sunday school friends. See?" 

Nicholas did not see, for he was staring across at 
his mother, who was playing with Burpham as her 
partner and Rosenbaum as her opponent. Beauty's 
face was flushed. For an hour or more she had not 
given a glance at Nick. She was losing money 
heavily, and every time she lost Rosenbaum smiled 
in his peculiar snake-like way. 

"These cards have got the Devil in them !" cried 
Beauty. "I never saw such an infernal run of 
luck." 

Burpham was glum. 

"Rosenbaum plays a devilich sharp game," he 
said. "The kind of game they play in the Ghetto 
among the cut-throat Jews of Europe." 

Rosenbaum cut to partners. 

"My dear Burpham," he said, "when I lose I pay, 
which is more than some men do, although they 
went to Eton and Oxford, and boast of Plantagenet 
blood." 

"Meaning me?" asked Burpham. "If so I will 
put my fist in your face and spoil that Jewish nose 
of yours." 

"Your deal," said Rosenbaum calmly. 
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"Buck up, Burpham/' said Beauty. "Don't be 
bad-tempered, dear boy." 

Nicholas was sickened. Why did Beauty tolerate 
those poisonous men? How could she laugh and 
chatter in that company ? What pleasure could she 
find in their conversation ? There were times when 
she forgot the very existence of Nicholas himself, 
and when his presence seemed a nuisance to her. 
When he went away from her rooms, overheated in 
the warmth of them, feverish and stifling so that 
he took oflf his hat to let the fresh air play about 
his forehead and drank in great draughts of it — 
he sometimes vowed that he would not go back into 
that atmosphere and that he would meet Beauty only 
when she was alone, without those hangers-on who 
flattered her and called her by her Christian name, 
and had the insolence to kiss her hands — as Rosen- 
batmi had kissed her hands one night when he left 
her rooms. 

But always Beauty called him back, with her notes 
saying "I expect you this afternoon," or "Meet me 
at one-thirty," and not a day passed but that he 
left his work hurriedly to join her somewhere in 
town for luncheon or tea or dinner, so that his 
pencils lay idle and his palette dry. Worse than the 
idleness which interrupted his spells of work was 
the feverish excitement which jangled his nerves, 
and consumed him like a fire, so that even when he 
had a few hours alone in his studio he could not 

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settle down to draw from the model and wasted his 
time in futile efforts, without concentration of mind 
or skill of hand. For Beauty's moods and tempers, 
her erratic habits, her utter disregard of his time 
and duties, her continual commands to come and 
"play" with her, her strange eagerness to thrust him 
into the society of her friends, though she did not 
pretend to defend their moral character, or even to 
disguise their somewhat shady reputations, filled him 
with vague alarm, and with uneasy forebodings. 
His ideal of Beauty, the perfect mother, was bruised, 
though he tried to hide the bruises from his own 
vision. Sometimes she wounded him to the quick 
by little vulgarities, by little revelations of her sel- 
fishness, of her indifference to the conventional moral 
code, of a low level of thought on things which 
Nicholas had believed to be essential to the quality 
of womanhood. Yet to get a smile from her, to hear 
her laughter, to touch her hands, to call her 
"Beauty/* to make believe that this mother was all 
that he desired, he abandoned his work, turned his 
back upon ambition, and was false to those who had 
faith in him. 

The crisis came one day when he opened his studio 
door in answer to an unfamiliar knock, and found 
his father on the threshold. 



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CHAPTER III 

THE CHOICE 

N1CH01.AS had been more than two years in London 
before that day when his father arrived suddenly 
and unexpectedly with the news that he had given 
up the cottage by the sea and had come to live in 
town again. 

"You and I must set up house together, Nick, 
and restune our old tomradeship/' said Bristles. 
"It was foolish of us both to live apart all this time. 
I have missed you horribly." 

He sat down in the studio, and looked round curi- 
ously. 

"A charming place you've got here. Expensive, 
eh?" 

"More than I could afford alone,' said Nick. 
"Jack Comyns pays the lion's share, you must re- 
member." 

"Yes, I suppose so," said Bristles. "But I am 
making a bit of money out of my books now. That 
last novel of mine has made a fair hit, thank Heaven. 
I need not look twice at every shilling. . . . Are 
there any places like this we could fix for ourselves? 
You and I together, Nick! That will be great." 

Nicholas saw that his father had gone gray since 
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he had last seen him, and that he had lost some 
of his old gaiety. There was, too, a kind of shy- 
ness in his manner, as though he was hiding some- 
thing from his son, or as though he had something 
on his mind which he found it difficult to say. And 
Nick was embarrassed also, hideously embarrassed, 
because he expected at any moment a visit from his 
mother, who had made a habit, lately, of calling at 
his studio to fetch him away from work, or to sit 
chatting with Jack Comyns, if that young man hap- 
pened to be handy — they amused each other vastly 
— or to wander round the room examining the life 
studies of the two art students. It would be a hor- 
rible situation if Beauty called when his father was 
there. What on earth should he do? 

There was another reason why this visit embar- 
rassed him. For more than a year now he had been 
waiting for the announcement of his father's mar- 
riage with Mary Lavenham. In letters he had re- 
ceived from Captain Muffett there' had been plain 
statements to the effect that Miss Lavenham and 
his father passed a great deal of time in each other's 
company, and were undoubtedly deep in love. At 
least the old Admiral had no doubt of it, and in his 
simple, misspelled letters, written with great splut- 
ters of ink, he had expressed his opinion that Nick 
would soon have a new mother, and that his good 
father was the only man in the world worthy of this 
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dear, brave lady. Nick remembered some of his 
sentences. 

I am a-weary of waiting for the sound of 
marriage bells [he spelt marriage with one "r*'] 
but I have a flag ready to hoist in the front garden, 
when Mary Lavenham goes to church in her best 
dress. It will be a happy day for the old Admiral, 
and after that he won't care how soon he sails into the 
haven of eternal rest. 



After his going away from Barhampton his 
father's weekly budget — ^the letter came as regu- 
larly as clockwork by the first post on Monday morn- 
ing — ^had contained vague hints of a probable change 
in his condition of life. For a year or more there 
had been in all his letters veiled allusions to Mary 
Lavenham's influence in his life. He quoted some 
of her words, as for instance: 

I was much struck last night by something Miss 
Lavenham said when we were walking along the sand 
dunes. We were talking of novel writing, and, indeed, 
of all forms of art, and she ended the conversation 
with a laugh (you know the sound of her laughter, 
Nick), and then said in her dogmatic way: "Life is 
greater than art, and words are only the ghosts of 
deeds. To do a thing is better than to write about it." 
That seems to me true criticism. It is a rebuke to 
the self-conceit of the artistic temperament. 
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And again : 

I was talking with Mary Lavenham last night in 
her little sitting-room — ^you know how she loves to chat 
in the twilight before the lamps are lighted — ^and she 
was full of hopes about your work and success. She 
takes more than a friendly interest in your career, 
Nick. It is a motherly interest, and she thinks of you 
as a woman of her only son. I wish you would write 
to her more often. 

But latterly in his father's letters there had been 
a change of tone. A note of sadness had crept into 
them, with here and there a touch of pessimism, as 
though he were passing through some unhappy crisis. 
His allusions to Mary Lavenham were not so fre- 
quent. He complained of loneliness. He regretted 
that he had the cottage on his hands, so that he 
could not join Nick in town. Several times he put 
into his letters queer sentences on the subject of love 
and women, as though warning his son of feminine 
entanglements. 

Do not be too quick to fall in love, Nick. Stick to 
your work; it is the safest way of satisf)ring one's 
heart and intellect. No doubt you will not be able 
to escape the allurements of women. Nature will not 
let you escape. But do not go half way to meet your 
trouble. For love is always a trouble, horribly dis- 
turbing, and sometimes destroying. Most women are 
reckless of men's hearts. Even the best of them are 
strangely careless of inflicting pain. And a man may 
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never be certain of them, because they are never cer- 
tain of themselves. Women are not logical, even in 
their emotions. As a bachelor, Nick, you will have 
your best time, especially as a bachelor of art, de- 
voted to a mistress who has utter loyalty. 



Nicholas had read these recent letters with a sense 
of perplexity. What had happened between his 
father and Mary Lavenham? He guessed that in 
those two whitewashed cottages at Barhampton some 
strange drama was happening which had not been 
revealed to him, and had not been guessed by the 
"Admiral," whose letters still harped on the old sen- 
timental string. Perhaps there had been a quarrel 
which would keep his father single. That idea be- 
came a conviction now that his father sat in the 
studio, discussing plans for the future which left 
Mary Lavenham out of account 

But at the sight of the gray hair of "Bristles," 
who had been his best comrade in life, and seeing 
sadness in his eyes, Nick was filled with compunction 
for his own selfishness. He realized with a sudden 
remorse that ever since Beauty had come back to 
him he had been drawing more and more away from 
his father, had thrust him out of his thoughts as 
much as possible, and had even been guilty of dis- 
loyalty to him. For once or twice when Beauty had 
spoken of "sulky old Bristles," he had not defended 
the man whose life she had wrecked, and had taken 
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THE CHOICE 

the woman's side in that tragedy which had been of 
her making. Though he knew now that Beauty was 
fickle to the heart, though he knew her vanity and 
her shallowness, her lack of any moral sense, her 
innate vulgarity of mind, she had put such a spell 
upon him that he was bitterty annoyed that his 
father had come to town, resentful of the thought 
that he would have to dodge him to get away to 
Beauty, and scared by the deception to which he 
would be put, dividing his time between these two 
people. Each claimed him, and he would be torn in 
half between them. 

So now, hating himself because he had no hearty 
greeting for his father, he sat rather silent, rather 
moody, and utterly miserable, so that Bristles was 
surprised and pained by this cold greeting. 

It was not until the evening when they had dined 
together at the hotel where Bristles was putting up 
for the night that something of the old comrade- 
ship between them revived. When they sat in a 
lonely comer of the smoking room. Bristles pulled 
out one of his old and favorite pipes — Nick recog- 
nized its well-burned bowl — and after a few puflfs 
began to speak of his life at Barhampton as though 
it were already remote, and an episode of the past. 
Then he said, in quite a careless way, as though 
he had just remembered a piece of news for Nick. 

"By the by, there will be three empty cottages 
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to let this season. Our little colony will be quite 
broken up." 

"How's that?" asked Nick. 

"Well, our cottage is already empty, and there 
are notice boards up in Mary Lavenham's front 
garden and Edward Frampton's grass-plot" 

"What !" said Nick. "Surely they are not going 
to leave!" 

"Yes, in a few weeks. They are going to get 
married. I think they will set up a flat in town," 

"Mary Lavenham and the Merman. Good God ! 
_I_I_thought " 

Nick was astoimded. He gazed at his father in 
blank amazement. 

Bristles puflfed at his pipe very quietly. A little 
color came into his face, and then faded out. He 
looked up at Nick with a curious smile. 

"My dear boy, I thought so too. I used to have 
an idea that Mary Lavenham and I might set up 
house together. It was a bad blow when I found out 
my mistake. It was a hard knock for a time, but 
I have got over it. One gets over most things, I 
notice." 

There was a great silence for a time. Nick did 
not dare to ask the meaning of this mystery. He 
shrank from questioning his father. But presently 
Bristles drew his chair a little closer to the fire, and, 
staring into the flame, spoke in a quiet, thoughtful 
way, as though analyzing a queer psychological 

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problem, interesting to a novelist like himself, but 
not disturbing to him. 

"Mary Lavenham is an extraordinary woman. I 
never pretended to understand her, though from the 
very first I admired her fine courage, her splendid 
commonsense, her womanly helpfulness. She has 
a genius for friendship, especially with men. You 
know her gift of sympathy and her candor. . . . 
It was that which deceived me. I came to imagine 
that* the sympathy she showed for my work and ideas 
was something exceptional, something, I mean, she 
gave to me alone. I got it into my head that she 
revealed herself to me with a frankness, an in- 
timacy, which no other man could claim from her. 
In that I was mistaken. She has so big a heart that 
any man in distress, any man needing a little con- 
solation or companionship, may be sure of her gifts. 
She gave herself, spiritually, I mean, and intellectu- 
ally — in a prodigal way to any unfortunate. . . . 
I think for a time she and I were tremendously taken 
up with each other. I think, even now, there were 
periods when my need of her touched her emotions, 
stirred her senses a little. You know what I mean. 
. . But the man who had the greatest need 
of her outrivalled me. That was Frampton, He, 
poor devil, suffered agony in his desire for her, and 
she knew that, and was convinced that she ought 
to sacrifice herself to save him. Indeed, I think for 
years she had come to look upon it as her duty, as 

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a kind of sacred vocation — the saving of Edward 
Frampton; and when I came, and appealed to her 
in a different way, touching her sense of romance, 
calling to the sentimental side of her nature, she 
looked upon me as a temptation. Rather humiliat- 
ing to me, eh, Nick? To be regarded as a tempta- 
tion 1 . . . Anyhow, just as I thought I had 
broken down the last barrier between us, when I 
thought I held her heart in my hands, she drew 
back and escaped from me, and surrendered to 
Frampton. ... A queer kind of drama. Like 
a novel. Frampton knew all the time that he was 
really master of this woman, if only he put his 
conscience on one side and pleaded his weakness. 
He was master of her through his weakness. Be- 
cause of his besetting sin she loved him and was 
eager to save him. For a long time he struggled 
between honor and dishonor. His conscience told 
him that he would be a coward to accept the woman's 
sacrifice. His passion for her tempted him devil- 
ishly. ... It was only when he saw her yield- 
ing to me that he gave a great cry to her, and said, 
If you abandon me I die!' It was that cry which 
captured her. She drew herself away from me and 
said, 'Frampton needs me most I must go to him.' 
An extraordinary situation. Hardly 
credible! A novelist would be a fool to use such a 
plot But there it is, in actual life. Mary Laven- 
ham will become the wife of an habitual drunkard, 
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in order to save his body and soul, and I — I suffer 
because I am a decent-living man. What do you 
think of it, Nick? Pretty queer, don't you think?'* 

"Damnable!" said Nick. "Frightful l" 

He spoke those words in all sincerity, horrified 
at the thought that Mary Lavenham was to be mated 
to a man who, at regular or irregular periods, was 
changed into a besotted beast. Yet, so queerly do 
things pull against each other in men's hearts, he 
was secretly rejoiced that his father would not marry 
again, and even a little glad that Edward Frampton, 
for whom in his normal moods he had still an ad- 
miration, not far removed from love, was not 
doomed to that fate which had been prophesied for 
him by Captain Muffett, if he were left alone. This 
thought reminded him of the old sailor-man who 
had staked his faith on a love match between Mary 
Lavenham and his father. 

"What does the old Admiral think of it?" he 
asked. 

Bristles laughed. The blow dealt to him by a 
woman's hand, the second blow which had smashed 
him for a time, had not killed his sense of humor. 

"The Admiral does more than think. He rages 
and storms. Mary had the deuce of a time with him. 
He accused her of being an abandoned hussy, and 
said that he had a good mind to shoot Frampton 
like a dog. Then he blubbered like a baby and 
said she had spoiled the dream of his old age. Lately 
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he took to coming round in the evenings to cheer 
me up, and quoted the Scriptures, especially the Book 
of Job, over his whiskey and water. A good old 
man, though he nearly drove me mad." 

That night when Nick left his father's hotel. 
Bristles kissed him on the cheek as though he were 
a small boy again, and then held him tight by the 
arm for a moment or two. 

"I shall be dashed glad, old man, to be alone with 
you again — ^you with your art, I with my books. It 
will be like old times, when we two were the happiest 
pair of bachelors in the world. We must search for 
a place to-morrow." 

"Yes," said Nick. "Yes." 

But as he walked back to the Fulham Road his 
mind was full of doubts and fears. How on earth 
could he set up house with his father, when Beauty 
was clamoring at his heart? Not once in any of 
his letters had he mentioned the name of Beauty. 
Never by any hint had he let his father know that 
he had found his mother again. She would not be 
content to see him only once in a while. He would 
not be able to steal away for odd half hours. Even 
now, after only one day's absence, he found on the 
<Ioor-mat inside the studio one of Beauty's cards, 
on which she had written: "What on earth has 
happened to you?*' and two notes sent down by 
hand, commanding him to lunch with her, and to 
dine with her. In one of them she said: "Kitty 
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Burpham will be desolated without you. She says 
you are the only good influence in her naughty life/' 
and in the second note she said : 

Baby Burpham is going away for the week-end, so 
you and Kitty will be able to flirt with each other to 
your hearts' content. Oh, you young people! It is 
a good thing I am old enough to play the part of 
Mother Grundy. 

Nicholas tore up both letters and flung them into 
the waste-paper basket These constant allusions to 
Lady Burpham were beginning to make him angry. 
The way in which Beauty thrust this girl into his 
company was becoming more than a joke. Kitty 
amused him sometimes, attracted him a good deal 
— she had a beauty to which he could not be blind 
and a wicked sense of humor which kept his brain 
on the alert — but it was not good for him to see 
too much of her, and, after all, she was a married 
woman. Nick was conscious that Kitty had a 
dangerous look in her eye at times when she smiled 
at him. It was a tempting look, which scared him. 
He would have to be careful of her, and of himself, 
yet Beauty seemed deliberately to put him in the 
way of temptation. It was almost as though she 
wished him to lose his heart to Baby Burpham's 
wife. 

Jack Comyns came in late from a dance at the 
Chelsea Town Hall, and found Nick sitting in semi- 

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darkness on the moders throne, with his elbows on 
his knees and his face in his hands. 

"Hulloh, old Dream-a-day !" said G)myns. "I 
have been hearing all sorts of bad things about you 
to-night" 

"I can quite believe it," said Nick. "What 
things?" 

Comyns laughed, but he gave a serious glance 
at his chum. 

"I expect it was only the kind of things one hears 
from one's candid friend. It was young Gibbon, 
who is out for the Gold Medal. He says he's not 
much afraid of you now, as your hand has lost its 
ctmning. According to him your work has been 
falling off pretty badly lately." 

Nick groaned. 

"I know. I can't put in a decent line. The game 
is up as far as I'm concerned." 

"My dear old lad," said Comyns in his cheerful 
way, "what did I tell you ? If you will go gadding 
about with a long-lost mother, I mean a newly found 
one, what can you expect?" 

"For God's sake don't give me good advice!" said 
Nick. "It's so devilish easy, isn't it? . . . Be- 
sides . . . I've got a father to look after me 
now." 

Comyns whistled. "What, has the famous nov- 
elist come to town?" 

Nick nodded and groaned again. 
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"Fm in a deuce of a fix. I haven't the ghost 
of a notion what to do." 

Comyns was very thoughtful for at least a minute. 

"There's only one thing you can do," he said. 

"What's that?" asked Nick. 

"Give one or the other the go-by. You can't take 
tea with your lady mother one day and supper with 
your honored father the next. They would be as 
jealous of each other as cat and dog, and you would 
have to stand the racket. It won't work, old son. 
Believe me." 

"How the devil do you know?" asked Nick. 

Comyns was sententious as he took off his danc- 
ing pumps and flung them one after the other into 
the waste-paper basket with unerring aim. 

"As a student of French fiction there is nothing I 
don't know about the relations between men and 
women. There is a short story I remember — ^the 
author's name escapes me for the moment — in which 
your present situation is completely and delicately 
analyzed. The story ended in the tragedy of the 
only son of the divorced couple. I forget whether 
he murdered his father, or whether he drowned him- 
self in the Seine. However, it doesn't matter. I'm 
sleepy . . . good-night." 

There was no good-night for Nick. He tossed 
about sleeplessly, and had haggard eyes when at 
twelve o'clock next day his father called round with 
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the news that he had found a jolly little house in 
Redcliffe Road which would suit them to a T. 

"I am afraid there will be too much work for 
Polly/' he said, "but I will get a little maid to help 
her. Come round and have a look at the place, old 
man." 

But when Nick was putting on his boots and when 
his father was looking at some of the drawings on 
the wall, the door which had been left tmfastened, 
was flimg open, and a gay voice cried out, "I be- 
lieve the boy is still in bed!" and — ^Beauty came in. 

"Of all the unsociable, disgruntled, discourteous, 
ungrateful and unloving sons !" she cried, standing 
inside the door with her arm outstretched as she held 
the knob of a very tall parasol, and struck an atti- 
tude of melodramatic indignation. 

Nick did not answer. He had just finished lacing 
up his boots, and he sat staring at his mother, in a 
stupid, speechless way. In a second she became 
aware that something was amiss, and aware also of 
a third person in the room. She turned her head, 
just as the man who had been her husband swung 
round on his heel at the sound of her voice. 

"Bristles!" said Beauty. 

The word came in a whisper from her lips, and 
all the laughter fled out of her eyes, changing to a 
look of fear. 

The man she had called by his old pet name stood 
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very straight, staring at her, so that their eyes 
searched each other. A wave of color swept into 
her face, and then died down, leaving it white. 

It seemed quite a long time that they stood like 
this, while there was a great silence in the room. 
Then at last Beauty turned, and shrugged her 
shoulders, and screwed out something like a laugh. 

"How funny!" she said, "after all these years! 
You have hardly changed a little bit. 
Bristles!" 

"I have changed," said Bristles, "in body and 
heart and brain." 

He spoke in a (Jueer hollow voice, and the lines 
in his face hardened. 

Beauty put her head a little on one side and 
quizzed him, with the flicker of a smile about her 
lips. 

"You have grown a wee bit gray," she said. 

She sidled forward a little, and held out her hand, 
and said: 

"Why not?" 

Nick's father drew back from her hand, as a man 
would draw back from the fangs of a snake. 

"I do not know you," he said. "I must beg of 
you to leave this room, where my son and I wish to 
be alone together." 

He spoke the words with a great deliberation, 
each syllable perfectly accented, like a man speaking 
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in a foreign tongue. Only the rise and fall of his 
chest showed that he was deeply moved. 

Beauty laughed now in quite a natural way, a 
shrill, scornful laugh. 

"Leave this room? My dear good man, I came 
here to see Nick, who is more my son than yours. 
Very much more. I shall stay here as long as I 
like." 

Bristles turned to his son. 

"Nick," he said very quietly, "will you order this 
woman out of your studio?" 

Beauty was very much amused 

"I should like to see him do it! I should jolly 
well like to see him do it!" 

She went across to him and put her arms about 
his shoulders as he sat in the cane chair, just as 
he had sat when lacing up his boots. She bent her 
head down and rubbed her cheek against his. 

"Dear old Nick! My dear precious boy! He 
would rather die than wound his mother's heart" 

Nicholas Barton was as pale as death. 

He stared up at his father in a tragic way. Tre- 
mendous forces were at work within him, plucking 
at his heart, tearing him asunder. His father's eyes 
were fixed upon him, called to his loyalty, to their 
old comradeship. There was a great entreaty in his 
father's face. But his mother's arms were about his 
neck. Her face was pressed against his. His cheek 
was wet with her tears which had begun to flow. 
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She was Beauty, his mother, for whom he had 
yearned all the days of his boyhood. 

"Father!" he said, "couldn't you make it up 
again? • • • Couldn't you and Beauty come 
together again? Is it too late?" 

These words, these faltering words, seemed to 
give a kind of shock to the man and woman. Beauty 
unclasped her arms from her son's neck, and stood 
up straight, with an extraordinary look on her face, 
a look of hard contempt for the man who had been 
her husband, a rather cruel look. 

"That is not at all likely. Once bit twice shy!" 

Bristles stared her straight in the eyes. 

"Nick does not understand what he asks. . . .. 
I tell him now, before you, that I would rather drown 
myself than live again with a woman who has no 
sense of honor, no decency of mind or heart, no 
honesty or truth. It was too late to come together 
again fourteen years ago, when you betrayed me 
once too often." 

Nick sprang up from his chair, his face aflame. 

"Father, I — I — must defend Beauty. I am her 
son. Do you forget that ?" 

Beauty sprang to him and put her arm through 
his, and laid her face on his shoulder, weeping. 

"Yes, Nick, you are my son ! Thank God I may 
lean on you now. In the old days I had no one to 
defend me." 

Bristles ignored the woman. He spoke to Niclc 
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"I do not forget you are her son. But you do 
not remember that I am your father. Which has 
the greater claim on you? The mother who aban- 
doned you, or the father who cherished you? An- 
swer me, Nick." 

Nick answered, but it was not a straight answer. 

"There were faults on both sides. There must 
have been ! It was not all Beauty's fault You told 
me that long ago." 

"It was all your father's fault!" cried Beauty in 
a sharp, shrill voice. "You do not know what I 
suflfered from that man, dear Nick. Oh, you will 
never know I He was as hard as nails to me. He 
was my schoolmaster. He whipped me with a moral 
birch, scourged me with the lash of his virtuous 
conceit. If he had been a little kind to me I should 
have cltmg to him. If he had been my mate instead 
of my school teacher I should have leaned upon him. 
He could have kept me straight with a smile, and 
called me back with a word of love. But he was 
always nagging, blaming, buUjring. He was jealous 
of my art, jealous of my friends, jealous even of 
you, little Nick. He was as hard as this deal table 
here." 

She struck the table with her bare hand and said : 

"Hard! . . . Hard! . . . Hard!" 

The lips of the man who had been her husband 
were twisted into a tragic smile, and he spoke to 
Nick again, not looking at the woman. 

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"Do you bdieve that, Nick? Is there any hard- 
ness in my nature? . . . Good God! I was as 
weak as water. If I had had any strength of will 
to master her I might have kept her straight. But 
I was a fool in her hands. It was she who was 
hard. She had the hardness of utter selfishness. 
She was as cruel as a tiger cat, and dug her claws 
into my heart. I have still her marks* The wounds 
still bleed at times." 

Beauty's face was on fire, 

"Your father was always a liar, Nick," she said, 
speaking through clenched teeth. Her hands were 
clenched also, as though they were ready to strike 
the man who had called her a tiger cat. 

Nicholas stood between these two people who were 
the' authors of his being. 

He stood grasping the lapels of his coat, with his 
head drooping and his eyes staring at the floor. He 
was a tragic figure there, this son listening to the 
terrible words of the man and woman who accused 
each other. He belonged so much to both of them. 
He had his father's clean-cut face, but his mother 
was in his eyes. He had his father's voice, the same 
inflections of the voice, but Beauty had given him 
his poise of the head, the unconscious trick of pas- 
sionate gesture. Their flesh and blood mingled in 
him and no surgeon could cut out the mother's share, 
or the father's. 

He raised both hands te his head and then flung 
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them out as he turned round and faced his father. 

"Lord God!" he said, "how am I to be the judge 
between you?" 

There was a silence. His father was staring at 
one of Jack Comyns' sketches of a dancing girl, 
tacked on the wall, as though it had put a spell upon 
him. Then he came down to Nick, and laid his hand 
on his son's shoulder. 

"You must be the judge," he said. "At least you 
must choose between us. Fourteen years ago the 
law gave you to me. It condemned this woman and 
gave me the custody of the child. Did I fail in my 
trust ? Did I not pour out my love upon you ? You 
and I have been good comrades, Nick. Are you 
going to let this woman kill our comradeship?" 

As he spoke the last sentences his voice faltered 
and broke. 

Beauty plucked at Nick's sleeve, 

"The law was cruel to me, Nick. It robbed me 
of you. I bore you in pain and agony. The law 
could not alter that fact by writing something in a 
book. As the mother who bore you I claim you now. 
Oh, you will not leave me again! You will not, 
Nick!" 

She put her face down and sobbed, and smothered 
his hand with kisses so that it was wet with her 
tears. 

On the other side of him his father's hand was 
upon his shoulder. 

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"Nick/* said the man, very calmly and quietly. "I 
can see that this woman is deceiving you, just as 
she deceived me. She is play-acting now, as she 
is always a play-actress. Do you think that emotion 
is real ? I have seen her do it on the stage, to make 
the servant girls sob in the gallery. Those tears are 
not real, my dear fellow. They are sham tears 
without salt in them. She pretends to love you, to 
long for you. For fourteen years she did not give 
you a thought. She only wants you for a little while 
as a plaything. When she is tired of you she will 
fling you away, like a broken toy." 

He took his hand from Nick's shoulder, and 
pulled out his watch. 

**This scene has lasted too long. It is a tragic 
farce. I can't stand any more of it." 

He looked into his son's eyes again, and all his 
soul seemed to be in his gaze. 

"One of us must go, Nick. Which is it to be? 
Are you going to turn this woman out — or me?" 

He went over to an oak chest and picked up his 
hat and stick and gloves. Then he spoke again, as 
Nick stood silent. 

"I came up to town with the idea that you and 
I should set up house together. I had set my heart 
on it — not guessing that this was going to happen. 
But it must be one thing or the other. I can't share 
you with this woman, who would always be poison- 
ing your mind against me, always tempting you 
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away from me. When you came back I should smell 
her scent on you, I should see her lies rankling in 
your brain, I should see the ghost of her hand 
dragging you away. No, that wouldn't do at all. 
We should both be miserable. . . . Come, Nick, 
old man. Make your choice. Which is it to be?" 

"Nick will stay with me!" cried Beauty. She 
flung her arms round her son, and put her face 
up to his. Then she cried out again with a triumph 
in her voice, "Nick will stay with me f" 

"Oh, my God!" said Nick. 

He was frightfully white. This torture was too 
much for him. A tremendous sorrow was upon him, 
because he had to make a choice which Nature never 
meant a man to make. 

"Well?" said his father. 

Nick put his arm round his mother's waist 

"I can't desert Beauty," he said. "I can't . . ., 
It's impossible." 

He had made his choice. 

"Nick will stay with me," said Beauty. She gave 
an hysterical laugh and stroked his face, and laid her 
head upon his chest, like a woman with her lover. 

The man who had once been her lover, whose face 
she had stroked like this, did not look at her. He 
seemed to have grown older since Nick had spoken 
his last words. There were new lines about his 
eyes and lips. But his voice was steady when he 
turned at the studio door. 

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"Good-by, Nick. When she has tired of you I 
shall be waiting for you. I will send you my ad- 
dress." 

He went out of the door, and there was the sound 
of his footsteps down the passage leading to the 
street. 

For a moment or two the mother and son stood 
motionless and silent. Then Beauty unclasped her 
arms from Nick, and mopped her eyes, and laughed, 
and cried a little. 

"That man is a devil," she said. 

"He is my father," said Nick. 



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CHAPTER IV 

THE WONDERFUL LADY 

Bristles did not stay very long in London after his 
arrival from Barhampton. In a friendly letter to 
Nick, which made no allusion to the tragic scene 
in the studio, he explained that he had taken a small 
house in Redcliffe Road, and that Polly had super- 
intended the moving of his furniture from the cot- 
tage in her usual indefatigable spirit They were 
still in the throes of the horrid business of settling 
down. But he himself was in an unsettled mood, 
and as soon as things were straight, proposed to go 
for a walking tour m Normandy to blow the cob- 
webs out of his eyes and get some local color for 
some scenes of a new novel which was already tak- 
ing shape in his head. 

Following upon this letter came a succession of 
picture postcards from Caudebec, Rouen, and other 
French towns and villages, none of which contained 
a reference to any home-coming. But in one of 
them he said that any letters addressed to Red- 
cliffe Road would be forwarded to his next address 
by the devoted Polly. 

And, by the bye — said Bristles in a postscript — 
that good soul would jiunp for joy if you fotind time 
to go and see her. 

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That suggestion of a visit to Polly came one day 
when Nick was feeling very "down." Beauty had 
gone off for a motor drive to Brighton with "Baby*' 
Burpham and Kitty and Amos Rosenbaum, and she 
had been very angry with him because he had 
stubbornly declined to join the party. His refusal 
had led to the first quarrel which Nick had had 
with his mother, and he had been astounded by the 
passion into which she had flown when he persisted 
quietly in his desire to stay behind and work. 

"You think more of your precious work than you 
do of me!" cried Beauty. "It is hateful of you. 
Surely you can put your work on one side for once 
to give me a little pleasure!" 

"I am always putting my work on one side," said 
Nick. "So much so that I am spoiling all my 
chances in the Schools. I shall never be able to 
make up for all this lost time." 

"There you are !" said Beauty. "You are always 
talking about your lost time, as if you begrudged 
every minute you spent with me." 

"That is unfair, mother!" said Nick, bending 
down to kiss his mother's hand. 

She drew it away quickly. 

"You don't love me a little bit." 

"I love you too much. I have given up all my 
ambitions for your sake. Beauty." 

His voice broke a little. This confession meant 
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very much to him, for his ambition had been a high 
ideal, and it lay broken at Beauty's feet 

*lf you are a little bit sincere you will come down 
to Brighton with us. Kitty will think it very strange 
if you don't come. You are always backing out 
of things now. She thinks you avoid her." 

"I do avoid her," said Nick quietly. "She is very 
dangerous." 

Then he spoke with sudden fire. 

"The whole crowd is dangerous, mother, I wish 
to goodness you would break with them. That fel- 
low Rosenbaum is a poisonous wretch, and Bur- 
pham is much too free and easy with you. There 
is not a moral between them. I hate the pack of 
em. 

"They are my friends," said Beauty. "They have 
been loyal to me through thick and thin. If you 
don't like them, Nick, you must do the other thing. 
See?" 

"I will do the other thing," said Nick, very 
coolly. 

But he did not feel at all cool when Beauty walked 
straight out of the studio with a very white and 
angry face. He felt hot all over, and cursed himself 
for having been bad-tempered and obstinate. 
Beauty still held him in the hollow of her hand. 
Her anger hurt him frightfully. And when she had 
gone he could not work. His nerves were on edge. 
His hand trembled. He could not concentrate his 

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mind. In his attempt to work he was wasting time 
just as much as if he had gone on the motor-drive 
to Brighton. At last he gave up the attempt as a 
bad job, and, catching sight of the postcard received 
from his father that morning, decided to call round 
on Polly, as the postscript suggested. It was a long 
time since he had seen the old servant who had 
nursed him as a baby, who had been his foster- 
mother in boyhood, and who had given him her 
purse when he started out for London. 

When she opened the door to him at the house in 
Redcliffe Road, the joy that suddenly illumined her 
plain old face, the little squeals of gladness she gave 
at the sight of him, and the way in which she flung 
her arms about him as soon as he had stepped inside 
the hall, rewarded him for his visit, and cured his 
melancholy. He had to laugh at her exaggerated 
expressions of delight and to laugh again when cling- 
ing to his hand she fairly danced with him into the 
sitting-room. 

"Oh, my poppet! Oh, my dear Master Nick! 
This is a sight for sore eyes!" 

Then she wept for sheer joy, and wiped her eyes, 
and laughed at her own tearfulness, and was amazed 
at the way in which her "boy" had grown into man- 
hood. After her first transports had subsided, she 
bustled away to get tea, and left Nick alone for a 
while in the sitting-room. Everything in the room 
was a reminder of his old life when he and Bristles 
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had been boy and man together, as the best of com- 
rades. There was the gate-leg table on which his 
father had written his novels, at which Nick him- 
self had sat poring over his lesson books or touch- 
ing up his sketches. There was the grandfather's 
clock which had ticked off the years of his life since 
his first breath m the world. And everywhere there 
were little signs of himself, arranged about the room 
as though his father had desired to crowd these re- 
membrances about him ; a model boat which he had 
made with the old "Admiral," a pile of his early 
sketch books, a portrait of his father, drawn in 
crayons — 3l queer, distorted likeness now that he saw 
it after a lapse of time — ^water-color sketches and 
pencil sketches of scenes in and around Barhampton, 
and the pencil box which had been a birthday gift 
from Mary Lavenham. 

Nick stared at these things with a sense of sad- 
ness, touched with remorse. His father loved him 
with a great love. Here in this little room were 
a thousand evidences of that fatherly affection. But 
by the damnable irony of fate Nick had been forced 
to abandon the man who had cherished all these 
tokens of their comradeship. He had left him alone, 
twice deserted, by son as well as by wife. Now in 
this house he was an intruder. He was no longer 
a part of his father's home life. He had sneaked 
round to visit Polly in his father's absence. The 
pitiful tragedy of it! 

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Over the tea-table Polly was a cheerful gossip. 
Yet, beneath her cheerfulness there was a hint of 
trouble. Now and again Nick caught her eyes fixed 
upon him with a queer wistfulness, and every now 
and then, between her tales of the "move" and her 
quarrels with Barhampton tradespeople, she heaved 
a deep sigh. Finally, when Nick refused a fifth 
cup of tea, she revealed the thought which had been 
worrying her, and faltered out with it. 

"Oh, my dear boy, ain't you goin' to live with 
your poor Pa no more?" 

Nick did not know what to answer her. He did 
not know how far this faithful old servant had 
learned the truth of things. 

He told her the truth. 

"I have found Beauty again, Polly. It makes it 
— ^awkward. Devilish awkward." 

Polly was not so surprised as he had imagined. 

"I know," she said. "I always knew it must come 
to that. A boy will search the world for his Ma. 
It's nature." 

Then she wept a little at the thought of Beauty. 

"I used to love every hair on the poor darling*s 
head. But she was that wilful. Oh, dearie me, she 
would never listen to a warning word, and would 
fly into a temper at the least little thing. What your 
poor Pa suffered with her there's no telling. And 
as patient with her as a lamb he was, bless his 
heart." 

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She put her arms down on the table and sobbed, 
so that Nick was horribly embarrassed. 

"Don't!" he said. "Don't, PoUy. It doesn't do 
any good." 

"I can't 'elp it, Master Nick. I really can't 'elp 
it!" sobbed Polly. "What ever is a-going to be- 
come of your dear Pa ? He's as miserable without 
you as a cat without kittens. 'E wanders about as 
though 'is 'eart 'ad broken, that lonely and miserable. 
And 'e was looking forward to living with you again 
like a man eager for his new-wed wife. Now 
Beauty takes you away and spoils everything. If 
only you 'adn't come acrost 'er again !" 

Nick groaned. 

"Let's talk about something else," he said. "Let's 
make the best of things as far as we can, Polly. 
TeH me some more news." 

It was just before he was going that Polly told 
him a piece of news which made his heart jump 
and put a bright light in his eyes. 

"I forgot to tell you, Master Nick, that I met 
a friend of yours the other day, and living within 
a stone's throw of this very 'ouse." 

"What friend?" 

"Why, that young lady who came to Barhampton 
in her pretty frocks. Miss Joan I mean." 

"Joan Darracott!" 

"Ay, that's the name. You would hardly know 
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her now, she's grown so tall and fine. Like one of 
them fashion-plates in the ladies' papers." 

"It's funny I've never met her," said Nick, hid- 
ing his excitement from the watchful eyes of Polly. 

But it was funnier still that he met her within 
five minutes of saying good-by to the old servant 
who was loathe to let him go, and who hugged him 
again in the hall before opening the front door. 

He was strolling along rather slowly toward the 
Fulham Road when he collided slightly with a girl 
who stepped out of a bun-shop. He raised his soft 
felt hat, murmured an apology, and passed on, when 
the girl gave a little cry of astonishment. 

"Nick!" 

He turned on his heel and faced her, and saw that 
this tall girl with fair hair coiled beneath a broad 
straw hat and in a muslin dress which the breeze 
blew against her legs, was the girl for whom he had 
often searched among the faces of the London 
crowds. 

"Joan!" 

She held out her hand to him and laughed. 

"Good gracious ! You've changed yourself again. 
You're quite a different kind of Nick from the 
bronzed boy of Barhampton." 

"And you!" said Nick. 

He stared at her as though she were some picture 
drawn by a master's hand, and there was something 
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in this look of admiration which made her smile self- 
consciously, while her face flushed a little. 

"How do you find me?" she asked, rather 
roguishly. 

"I find you wonderful," said Nick. 

She seemed to him more wonderful than when she 
had run bare-legged races with him along the sands, 
and when she had played the mermaid outside the 
hole in the rocks, and when she had sat with him 
in the cave, with her knees tucked up, gazing out 
at the wide sea strewn with rose-petals in the light 
of the sinking sun. She had been wonderful then, 
touched with enchantment, like a fairy creature. 
But now she had grown in wonder, so that his spirit 
was abashed before this elegant young lady, whose 
beauty was as exquisite as a portrait by Romney. 

"You mustn't stare at me like that," said Joan. 
"People will think there is something queer about 
me. 

"So there is," said Nick. "It's the queerest thing 
in the world to find you grown up into a grand 
lady." 

He stared down at his own shabbiness. 

"You see I am still in rags. You will be ashamed 
of me again." 

"Oh, you look all right," said Joan. 

She did not tell him he looked a handsome fellow, 
and that his soft felt hat and gray flannel suit gave 
him an air of artistic distinction which she found 
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rather pleasant and attractive. Besides, she had a 
soft place in her heart for the memory of the boy 
whose adoration had not been hidden from her on 
the sands of Barhampton. It is true that she had 
never written to him — she hated letter writing — and 
it is true that other interests had crowded her mind, 
but often she had given just a passing thought to 
that holiday by the sea when she and Nick had been 
Adam and Eve, alone in a lonely world. 

With her gracious permission Nick walked with 
her in the Chelsea Gardens, and she was very kind 
to him, and did not seem to mind a bit when people 
turned round, now and then, to look after the tall 
and pretty girl who was chatting to a shabby young 
man in a dump hat. She asked him a score of 
questions — where was he living? What was he 
doing? Did he ever go to dances? How did he 
amuse himself? Was he making any money? — and 
though she did not listen to all his answers, but in- 
terrupted them to ask some more questions, she 
seemed interested to know that he was an art stt^ 
dent in Chelsea, and shared a studio with another 
young man, and led an independent life. 

"Well done, Nick!" she said, with a slightly 
patronizing air, fully justified in so pretty a girl who 
condescends to be interested in the fortunes of a 
shabby young man. "One of these days I must come 
to visit your studio. It would be quite an adven- 
ture.'' 

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"Come now!'' said Nkk. "I will boil a ketde 
for you, and make some tea," 

But she laughed at this abrupt invitation, and 
said, "Some other day, if mother does not cut up 
rough." 

"Why should she cut up rough?" 

"Because the leopard cannot change its spots, nor 
mothers their fads and fancies. Now that I am old 
enough to look after myself mother is always 
thrusting the proprieties down my throat. However, 
I am becoming more independent" 

She put her hand on Nick's arm, and said, with 
a little thrill of excitement in her voice: 

"What do you think ! I am earning my own liv- 
ing. Not bad, eh?" 

"Good Lordl I can't believe it!" said Nick, as 
though the mere thought of a girl like Joan earning 
her own living were a moral outrage. 

"It's a fact I am the typist-secretary of an 
anthropoid ape." 

' "Good God!" said Nick, horribly startled. "How 
do you make that out?" 

"It doesn't want any making out," said Joan. "It's 
a most obvious fact. He's a bald-headed old ape 
with enormous eyebrows and a shaggy white beard, 
and long arms, and legs too short for his body, and 
he lives entirely on a fruitarian diet, and is writing 
a book on 'Nut Diet and Social Morality.' He's a 
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Professor with a lot of letters after his name, which 
is Wilkins." 

"And what do you do for him?'' asked Nick. 

"Oh, I type all his letters to the vegetarian societies 
who want him to address their meetings, and to 
members of Parliament who are pledged to support 
a fruit diet, and to all sorts of cranks who have 
abandoned meat and morality/' 

"I don't think it is the sort of work you should 
do," said Nick. "Is the fellow all right in his 
head?" 

"I don't know," said Joan thoughtfully. "He 
makes all sorts of grimaces at me, which I think 
he imagines to be friendly smiles . . . and he 
urges upon me the moral duty of dispensing with 
corsets and boots. He is an apostle of loose-fitting 
garments and sandals, among other things. Still, 
he is quite harmless, and pays me a guinea a week." 

"I should like to punch his blooming old head for 
him," said Nick. "Surely you can get a better job 
than that!" 

Joan Darracott glanced round at Nick's face, and 
smiled at its angry look. 

"To be quite honest, I loathe all jobs. But any- 
thing is better than a fretful mother. Even an an- 
thropoid ape. You see, no rich young man has come 
along to offer me his hand and heart and well- 
filled purse. A pity, isn't it?" 
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Nick was silent It was quite a little time before 
he said, in a hesitating way : 

"One of these days I hope to earn a bit of money 
— if I have any luck." 

Joan Darracott found his words amusing. 

"Artists don't earn much money," she said. 
"They are a poverty-stricken crowd as a rule. And 
they have to wait such a long time before they make 
a name for themselves, don't they?" 

"Not always. Besides ..." 

"Yes?" said Joan, quizzing him a little. 

"Poverty isn't such a frightful thing, is it? I 
know one or two fellows who have married on next 
to nothing, and they seem as jolly as the day is 
long." 

"Oh, that's a pose," said Joan. "Poverty is only 
another name for misery. I have seen such a lot 
of it, in shabby-genteel boarding-houses. I have 
heard mother's tales of her early married life. Ugh ! 
The squalor of it ! The meanness of it !" 

She shuddered a little, and then laughed. 

"What on earth are we talking like this for? It 
doesn't matter to us, does it, one way or the other?" 

"No," said Nick, "I suppose not." 

So he spoke, though he knew that it mattered all 
the world to him, for he was not one of those who 
forget, nor one whose dreams in boyhood vanish at 
the touch of manhood. It was only a few years since 
he had thrilled in the presence of this girl, and since 
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she had put a spell upon him, awakening vagiie de- 
sires, burning hopes, great ambitions. He had given 
his love to her then, all the ardor of his boy's heart 
had been inflamed by her. The kiss she had given 
him when she said good-by one day on the other side 
of the estuary had touched his lips with a sacred 
fire in which he had dedicated himself to her. And 
though he had not found her in London, the thought 
of her had remained with him in a little sanctuary 
which sometimes he had opened with a worshipful 
mind. 

For Nicholas Barton was not like many young 
men. Not for his happiness some fairy at his birth 
had "wished" him the gift of loyalty to his remem- 
brances. And just as he had cherished the memory 
of Beauty through all the years, when many boys 
would have forgotten, so later he had hidden the 
thought of Joan in his heart so that it could not 
escape. Now at this meeting again his nature leaped 
to her, and his boy's love had grown unconsciously 
so that he had a man's love ready for her at this 
new meeting. For her the years that had inter- 
vened between their comradeship had been barren 
as far as that was concerned. She picked him up 
again just as she had let him go. But for him they 
had been years of growth, during which his ideal 
of her had developed with his own development, in 
body, heart and soul. 

So now, when he parted with her at the door of 
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her own house in Elm Park Gardens, he was eager 
for their next meeting, and could not hide his eager- 
ness. Nor could he hide his disappointment when 
Joan would do no more than promise that "if she 
had nofliing better to do" she might possibly call 
round at his studio one day. 

To his great joy she kept this promise, and came 
one afternoon when he had given up hope of her. 
It was Jack Comyns who opened the door to her, 
and parleyed with her on the threshold. 

"Nicholas Barton ? Yes, he's here. Inconvenient ? 
Oh, rather not I'll answer for that Do come in!" 

Comyns who had gone to the door with a curse 
and the remark, "Another of those confounded 
models!" came back with his most charming pose, 
ushering in Joan Darracott as though she were a 
Princess. 

"Nick, old man, a lady to see you. I must apol- 
ogize for being in the way." 

He smiled in his cool, superior way at Joan Dar- 
racott, and said: 

"Nick and I share studios you know. It's rather 
a nuisance sometimes, especially to Nick. But of 
course I make myself scarce when I am not wanted." 

He strode to the hat peg, as though prepared to 
make an instant departure, but Joan laughed a little 
nervously, and said: 

"I hope you won't go for my sake." 

"Oh, thanks," said Comyns, "of course I should 
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like to stay — if Nick will be good enough to intro- 
duce me." 

Nick introduced him, though deeply embarrassed, 
and highly nervous now that Joan had fulfilled her 
promise. He wished to Heaven that he had Jack 
Comyns' self-possession and easy manners. For in 
less than two minutes Comyns was on the friendliest 
terms with Joan Darracott, and was already ex- 
plaining that he led a "double life" and had escaped 
to Chelsea from the dull respectability of Mayf air. 

"From things I have read," said Joan, "I fancy 
you exaggerate its respectability." 

Comyns laughed very heartily at this remark. 

"Oh, I know Mayfair and morals are not supposed 
to go together, but you must not believe what you 
read in the halfpenny papers, or hear in sermons by 
popular preachers." 

"To my mind," said Joan, "Mayfair must be a 
very exciting place, because there people live in the 
lap of luxury and indulge in all the pleasures which 
make up the fun of life." 

"Oh, my dear lady!" said Com3ms, pretending to 
be shocked by these views, "surely you do not think 
that luxury produces the fun of life?" 

"Certainly!" said Joan. "There's no fun at all 
in wanting things which you can't have." 

Comjms disputed the point, persuasively, wittily. 
It was the very point he loved best to dispute, be- 
cause it gave him a chance of revealing his elaborate 
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views on the splendid joy of plain living and high 
thinking. For a young man immaculately dressed 
— he had just been completing his afternoon toilet 
— ^and terribly in debt to all the tradesmen, in spite 
of the handsome allowance from his rich father, he 
held a most austere philosophy — ^and Joan was quite 
a match for the philosopher. 

While the argument was proceeding, Nick boiled 
the kettle and made some tea. But it was Comyns 
who did the honors of the table, and who, half way 
through the meal, ordered Nick to sally forth and 
buy some fancy pastries at a shop round the comer. 
.When Nick returned Joan and Comyns were laugh- 
ing very gaily at a joke which was not explained 
to him. It was a question of two's company and 
three's none, and Nick was the odd man out. Yet 
he was grateftd to Comyns for showing himsdf at 
his best and making the tea-party a success as far 
as Joan was concerned. At least upon leaving she 
assured the two friends that she had enjoyed herself 
immensely, as it was such a relief from the society 
of the anthropoid ape to whom she must now return. 

Nick took her back to the residence of that Pro- 
fessorial beast, and on the way, which was a path of 
pleasure to him, launched into generous praise of his 
friend, about whom Joan asked one or two questions. 

"He has a heart of gold," said Nick. 

Joan seemed sceptical. 

"A little bit affected, isn't he?" she asked. 
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"Oh, that's only part of his charm," said Nick. 
"He adopts a pose because he has such a sense of 
humor. He loves to laugh at himself." 

"Well, that's a saving grace," Joan admitted. 
But she held out that Comyns was not quite sincere. 

Comyns himself was in a good humor when Nick 
came back. 

"I congratulate you on your friend, old man. A 
charming girl, and not a bit of nonsense about her." 

Then he slapped Nick on the back and said : 

"Sly old dog ! No wonder you are dreamy some- 
times! Miss Darracott is a dream for any fellow 
with a soul about him." 

Nick was serious. 

"Don't chaff too much," he said. "I hate all that 
kind of thing. I mean — a man's dream is sacred." 

Comyns grinned at him. 

"It's like that, is it? All right, old man. Enough 
said." 

He only asked one other question. It was Joan 
Darracott's address. 

That house in Elm Park Gardens where Joan lived 
with her mother became to Nick his house of dreams. 
Often before going to bed he strolled that way, to 
stand a little while on the other side of the road, 
beyond the pool of light below the lamp-post, to gaze 
up at Joan's bedroom window. He knew which 
room it was — the one above the porch — ^and some- 
times by good luck he saw her shadow on the blind, 
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and always in imagination he saw the beauty of her 
face there, which no blind could shut out from his 
mental vision. Like all lovers who have ever lived, 
his heart quickened at the thought of her, his brain 
was on fire with the strange fever of love, and life 
itself seemed to him more wonderful, more mysteri- 
ous, more desirable because of one girl-woman whose 
pretty face seemed haunted with all the loveliness 
of life, whose voice contained the music of life, 
whose slightest touch thrilled him with a vibration 
like that which holds the world together in the 
dancing atoms of its matter. . . . Yet Joan 
Darracott was like many other girls with pretty faces 
and sparkling eyes. She had no unusual qualities, 
and no special magic — except for Nicholas Barton. 
At this time he had obtained all that he had most 
desired in his boyhood — Beauty and Joan. But 
curiously, so strange are the ways of life, he was not 
as happy as he should have been by the fulfihnent 
of his hopes. Indeed, looking back to those days, 
Nicholas confesses to a feverish, nerve-racking, soul- 
disturbing time, not pleasant in recollection. He 
seemed to be living at too hot a pace, and to get 
no peace of mind or body. For some months he 
thrust his work almost entirely on one side, though 
the call of art was always in his ears, reproachful, 
plaintive, or commanding. The other Beauty still 
made continual demands upon his time, and he had 
not the heart to refuse her. 
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Every night now he took her to the theatre in her 
hired brougham, and then called to fetch her home 
again — ^to that suite in a great hotel which she called 
*'home'' unconscious of irony — where on most nights 
Rosenbaum was waiting for her, or Baby Burpham, 
or other men who came to play cards or to have 
supper, until sometimes the light of dawn glimmered 
through the window blinds. Nick walked home 
alone, his brain excited by the light and heat, by 
the laughter of his mother, by her teasing and her 
light-hearted frivolity, by strange doubts and dread- 
ful suspicions that underneath the gaiety in her 
rooms there lurked ugly perils, and that in the scent 
of the flowers in her rooms, in that heated atmos- 
phere there was some subtle and destroying poison. 

For some reason Beauty had become more emo- 
tional of late. Her nerves seemed jangled. She 
was quickly elated, and just as quickly depressed. 
She flew into tempers even with Nick, for no ap- 
parent reason, and then petted him and fondled him, 
as though to make amends. More than once he saw 
the traces of tears on her face, and once in a passion- 
ate scene when he was alone with her she flung 
herself down on to her sofa and cried out that she 
was a vile creature and ought to be drowned, wailing 
like a woman in agony of soul. He went down on 
his knees beside her, and begged her to tell him her 
trouble, but in a little while she laughed as though 
nothing had troubled her, and that very afternoon 
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was in such gay spirits that she surprised even Kitty 
Burpham, who had come into tea. 

Nick did not tell her about Joan. Yet it was 
not easy to hide his secret, for she was inquisitive 
about the hours he spent away from her. He had 
to dodge her questions when he had taken Joan to 
a matinee, and when one afternoon — ^unforgettable 
in its glory — ^he had rowed her on the Serpentine, 
where she shaded the sun from her face under a lace 
parasol, but had not hidden her eyes from him, and 
when she lay at his feet in the boat, her head pil- 
lowed on a scarlet cushion, in the deep shadow of 
an overhanging tree. That afternoon she had been 
in her most winning mood, kind and gracious and 
not teasing. 

"It is good to be here," she said, "you and I, Nidc, 
as we used to sit in the rock cave at Barhampton. 
Tell me some more of your fairy-tales." 

He had told her a fairy-tale about a Princess and 
a beggarman, and she had listened with a little smile 
about her lips. The story ended with a golden kiss 
which the Princess gave the beggarman, so that al- 
ways after that his rags seemed to him like purple 
and fine linen, and his black bread like choicest 
viands, and all his misery like unclouded joy. 

"Joan," said Nick, "there is not a boat in sight, 
and we are alone here in the shadow of the tree. 
If I stoop down to you will you give me a golden 
kiss?" 

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"You must stoop low, then/* said Joan, "because 
I am too lazy to move." 

He stooped low and kissed her, and she pulled his 
head down lower still and kissed him on the lips. 

But she seemed a little frightened after that, and 
sat up in the boat, and said, "I shan't do that again. 
It isn't playing the game. Some people seem to 
think such a lot of a kiss." 

"I think aU the world of it," said Nick. 

She pleaded with him not to think too much of it 

"I meant nothing by it, Nick. Nothing at all." 

She did not let him kiss her again after that after- 
noon in the boat, and Nick was troubled because she 
seemed to draw away from him a little, and put on 
a mask of satire to hide herself from him, making 
fun of his sentiment, and laughing at him when he 
was in a tender mood. Yet she came to the studio 
several times, and there were delightful tea-parties 
when Comyns, who did not go out so much, had 
put on his best clothes and his best behavior in case 
she might favor them with a visit. But it was dis- 
tressing to Nick that she could never tell him be- 
forehand the time of her visit, her hours with the 
anthropoid ape being so irregular, so that it hap- 
pened several times that he had rushed off to see 
Beauty just before she came, and returned just as 
she had gone. Comyns explained that she had 
waited as long as she could to see him and was im- 
mensely disappointed when he did not come back. 
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He also explained that he had done his best to en- 
tertain her, and to keep her talking for a good while, 
in order that Nick might return before she had gone. 

"Thanks, old man," said Nick. "You are the best 
of pals." 

"That's all right, old man," said Comyns. "Don't 
mention it" 

Once Nick had the luck to get back to the studio 
before Joan had given up waiting for him. She liad 
stayed much later than usual, and it was nearly 
eight o'clock. Indeed, when Nick opened the door 
the studio was almost in darkness, and for a moment 
he did not see the figures of Joan and Comyns sitting 
by the hearthside where the fire had burned low. 
They saw him first, and Joan sprang up with a little 
cry. 

"Is that you, Nick?" 

Comyns got up slowly from the coal scuttle on 
which he had been sitting with his knees tucked up. 
He laughed rather nervously, and said: 

"What a long time you have been, old man ! .We 
have been waiting and waiting for you." 

"You might have had a light on the scene," said 
Nick. "It's like coming into a tomb." 

He struck a match and lighted the gas, and then 
was surprised to see that Joan looked rather flushed, 
and that her eyes seemed to shine like stars. He 
had never seen her looking quite so beautiful. It 
seemed as if there were a kind of glamor about 
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Her face like a girl touched with some enchantment. 

*'You look strange this evening, Joan," said Nick, 
gazing at her. **Has anything happoied to you?*' 

"Happened ?" said Joan. "What could have hap- 
pened ?" 

Her voice was tremulous, and she laughed in a 
low voice, as she stooped to pick up her hat. 

"I have been sitting in this gloomy old studio, 
waiting for you to come back. It's a funny thing ! 
You're always out now when I come. I believe you 
deliberately avoid me." 

"It's my most damnable ill-luck," said Nick. 

He walked to Elm Park Gardens with her, and 
she slipped her hand through his arm, so that at 
her touch he seemed to be walking on air. But she 
was very silent, and left him to do all the talking 
until she interrupted him abruptly by a queer ques- 
tion. 

"Do you think a girl can be great friends witii a 
man without meaning anything — serious? I mean 
—is it playing the game and all that?" 

Nick puzzled over her meaning. He could not 
quite see the drift of it 

"It depends on the girl, and it depends on the 
man," he said in a non-committal way. 

Joan laughed at that. 

"Yes, I suppose so. But some men are so emo- 
tional. ... It must be all or nothing with 
them." 

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She turned to Nick, and looked up into his face. 

"Nick, you are awfully emotional. I wish you 
wouldn't be. I am afraid you will get — ^hurt— one 
of these days." 

"Hurt?" said Nick. 

He laughed, but with a queer sound in his voice. 

"As long as you are kind to me, Joan." 

They were outside her gate now, and she took his 
hand and held it for a moment. 

"You have been awfully kind to me, Nick. I 
shan't forget that . . . But you must not ex- 
pect too much of me. I*m a queer kind of creature. 
You know that, don't you?" 

"No," said Nick. "I know that you are — 
splendid." 

"Foolish old Nick." 

She ran up the steps, and he heard her laugh as 
she rang the bell and then disappeared into the tall 
and gloomy house. 

Nick walked home slowly, pondering over Joan's 
queer words. Not yet could he find the meaning of 
them. He only knew that this girl held his heart 
in her hands, and that she could do what she liked 
with it. 



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CHAPTER V 

THE ROD OF FATE 

It was of course a hard knock to Nicholas Barton 
when he failed to win the Gold Medal of the Acad- 
emy Schools and saw his name low down on the 
list of competitors. It was not less hard because he 
had anticipated this result; knowing that his work 
for the past six months had been practically at a 
standstill, and that he had lost his nerve and his skill 
of hand and eye. But it was the plain fact of failure, 
and the knock-out blow to his ambition. It was a 
sorry reminder of the dreams and hopes with which 
he had come to London, now shattered like a house 
of cards, and it convicted him of something like 
treachery to those good friends who had staked their 
money on his success. It added galHto his bitter- 
ness when he received telegrams from Mary Laven- 
ham and Edward Frampton. bidding him be of good 
cheer. "Better luck next time," said Mary Laven- 
ham. "We learn by our defeats," said Edward 
Frampton. No word came from his father. 

Well, that was the end of one great dream, and 
the pill of failure was most bitter to his mouth be- 
cause he knew that he could have tasted the sweet- 
ness of success if he had not frittered away his 
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chances and played havoc with his time. His masters 
six months ago had said, "You are certain of the 
medal." His fellow students had said, "It's yours 
already. Barton. We can't compete with you." But 
six months had altered everything. They had 
jangled his nerves, spoiled his working hand, 
smashed him as far as art was concerned. For Art 
demands complete allegiance, absolute loyalty, and 
he had been unfaithful in his devotion,' being 
dragged into other loyalties calling upon his emotion 
and energies and spiritual resources. 

"Never mind, old man," said Com)ms. "There is 
no reason to be so down-hearted. After all, gold 
medal or no gold medal, you've got the right stuflf 
in you. You'll win through all right." 

"I'm finished," said Nick. 

"Finished be blowed ! You haven't b^^un yet" 

Beauty did not bother about her son's failure. 

"Drat the old medal!" she said. "Let's go and 
have an extra special lunch. Half a bottle of hock 
will make you see everything couleur de rose, my 
dear." 

But Nick saw red instead of rosy hues. He was 
savage with himself, savage with fate, even a little 
savage with his mother because she did not care for 
his success or failure. She cared for nothing except 
the immediate moment. There were times when 
Nick believed that she cared nothing for him, or for 
any one except herself. Yet, having thought so, he 
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reproached himself, especially as in the days follow- 
ing his disappointment she was more tender than 
usual, more dinging, more anxious to be with him. 
He could not quite understand the emotional affec- 
tion which she displayed for him during these days. 
It was too great a strain upon his own temperament. 

"You know I love you, Nick," she said a score 
of times. "Tell me that you know I love you." 

"Of course I know," said Nick. 

"You don't think I am a wicked woman, do 3rou? 
You have seen the best in me. I am not all bad, 
ami, little Nick?" 

"You are all good," said Nick, not with absolute 
sincerity. 

She pulled his head down and played with his 
hair, and kissed him, and laid her cheek against his 
cheek. 

"You will never think badly of me, will you, 
Nick? You will always make allowances, won't 
you?" 

"There is nothing to allow for," said Nick laugh- 
ing. 

"Oh, yes," said Beauty. "There must always be 
allowances for a woman like me, with a nature like 
mine. I think even God will make allowances. 
Funny old God!" 

Nick wondered what crisis was happening in his 

mother's life. He could not hide from himself that 

something was happening. For she had some secret 

trouble which excited her, which made her terribly 

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BEAUTY AND NICK 

despondent, until she forced herself into high spirits 
beyond the bounds of a natural gaiety, when her 
laughter was rather shrill and wild and her eyes 
strangely and dangerously bright. 

Then suddenly, after her bout of emotional mother 
love, she began to avoid him. He was sure of that. 
The telegrams which came from her now no longer 
summoned him to her rooms, but made excuses for 
not seeing him. 

"I have a headache to-night Come to-morrow." 

When to-morrow came he had another message 
from her. 

"I am off to Brighton for the day. I will see you 
on Monday." 

She became eager for motor-drives, and explained 
that they cured the headaches which now afflicted 
her. But Nick was uneasy when he heard that 
"Baby" Burpham took turns with Amos Rosenbaum 
to be her driver. These two men who hated each 
other swallowed their hostility in order to keep on 
friendly terms with Beauty and it seemed that she 
had some spell over them which made them slaves 
to her, though they were sulky and sullen with her 
sometimes, and more than once, even in Nick's pres- 
ence, frankly insolent. 

"Why don't you play a straight game for once in 
your life?" asked Rosenbaum one night when Beauty 
told him that she had changed her mind about going 
to Ascot with him as she was "fed-up" with his so- 
ciety and desired a change. 
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Beauty laughed, and did not seem oflfended. But 
she was startled when Nick, who had overheard the 
remark, suddenly strode over to Rosenbaum with a 
white face and blazing eyes and clenched fist, and 
said: 

"If you don't apologize for those words, I will 
knock your teeth down your throat." 

He spoke the words loudly, although Kitty Bur- 
pham was in the room. He did not see Kitty rise 
a little from the piano stool and stare across the in- 
strument with a queer smile about her lips, and 
in her eyes a look as though expecting fun. 

Rosenbaum twisted his moustache, and colored up 
a little. But his lips curled into a sneer, and his 
voice was very cool when he spoke. 

"What the devil has it got to do with you? I 
was speaking to your mother." 

Nick faced the man, and a tremor passed through 
his body. 

"If you don't apologize now, I will thrash you." 

He raised his fist for a smashing blow. 

"I am sorry," said Rosenbaum very quickly. He 
retreated a little to the mantelpiece, and said : 

"I did not mean to be so brutal. Your mother 
knows that my tongue sometimes gets between my 
teeth." 

He laughed nervously, and then took out a cig- 
arette and tapped it on the mantelshelf. 

Kitty's voice came across the piano. 
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"In another moment there would have been a life- 
less corpse. Oh, Nick, you looked splendid in your 
wrath. Like a young god. What a pity Rosenbaum 
is a coward and ate his words! What a drama 
spoiled!" 

Rosenbaum turned round savagely at her. 

"Shut up!" he said. 

"Oh, dear! I wish everybody wouldn't be so 
violent!" said Beauty. "Nick darling, you have 
given me quite a turn." 

Kitty Burpham laughed quite gaily. 

"Wonderful world ! Wonderful people !" 

Then her husband entered, with his monocle 
screwed in his eye and his fat smile on his face. 
He ignored his wife, and went straight over to 
Beauty and raised her hand to his lips. 

"How goes it, fair lady?" 

"I'm going anyhow," said Rosenbaum, in his most 
sullen way. He strode out of the room, without 
saying good-by. 

Baby Burpham raised his blonde eyebrows so that 
his monocle fell. 

"Has Rosy got the hump or something? Thank 
Heaven for that, if it relieves us of his most objec- 
tionable presence." 

"He means well," said Beauty, "He's been very 
good to me." 

Burpham gave a queer laugh, and stared at Beauty 
so that a wave of color swept into her face. 

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"In expectation of favors to come," he said 

Beauty flung a cushion at him, which he caught 
with his left hand in time to save his head. 

"Oh, Lord !" cried Kitty. "Now we are going to 
have Baby's flow of original wit, his brilliant gifts 
of repartee, his subtle innuendoes. Nick, save me, 
lest I die. Take me to the theatre or something." 

"Yes," said Beauty. "Take the child to the the- 
atre, Nick, it will do you both good." 

"I'll pay," said Baby Burpham, taking out two 
sovereigns from the silver purse on his watch-chain, 
and flinging them across the piano to Kitty. 

Lady Burpham grabbed them, and made a face. 

"They seem precious glad to get rid of us," said 
Kitty. "Don't they, Nick?" 

Burpham grinned. 

"We see too much of each other, even for such 
a loving couple as ourselves. Take a rest from me, 
Kit." 

"Thanks," said Kitty. "I will. Come on, Nick." 

Nick went unwilUngly, cursing himself for a weak 
fod. Yet he was glad to get out into the fresh air, 
and glad to escape from Baby Burpham, whom he 
hated worse than Rosenbaum. 

Outside the hotel Kitty stuck up her umbrella and 
hailed a hansom cab. 

'T>rive round," she said, "anywhere. Clapham 
Common, or Wild West Kensington. Keep going, 
that's all. See?" 

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The cabman touched his hat. He had heard of 
such things before. 

"I thought we were going to the theatre/' said 
Nick. 

"It's too deadly/' said Kitty. "Same old plays, 
same old women, same old jokes. God! I couldn't 
stand it to-night . . , Settle yourself down, 
Nick. . . . How cool and sweet the air is ! . . . 
Look at the stars twinkling above the house tops. 
Let's go beyond the lights of the streets, into some 
place of darkness where there are only stars. The 
Commons are not far away. ... I feel Pagan 
to-night I want fresh air, solitude, space, the smell 
of the earth, the song of the stars. . . . Ever 
feel like that, Nick?" 

"Often." 

They were silent for a time. Nick listened to the 
idip-klop of the horse's feet, the jingle-jangle of its 
bells. He stared at the lights as they flashed by, at 
the vague, white faces of hurrying people. But all 
the time his thoughts were with Beauty. He wished 
to Heaven he could persuade her to get rid of Rosen- 
baum and Baby Burpham. He would ask her to 
come away into the country with him. After the 
fun of her piece she might like the idea, and it was 
coming ofT quite soon — to-morrow, now he came to 
f hink of it. She would be free then for a little while, 
.md they could have a holiday alone in some old 
^X}untry inn among the fields and the flowers. It 
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would be cleansing to both of them. It would cleanse 
them of this London malady, this fever-stricken life. 

"Nick," said Kitty, "you and I are twin souls, 
strange as it may appear.*' 

"Think so?" 

"I know it. I am like you, Nick — ^good at the 
heart. All my swear words don't mean anything. 
If I could get away from Baby I should get clean 
again. It is he who smirches me, who puts the devil 
into me. He is a beast of beasts. Away from him 
I should be a decent thing. I have good instincts. 
I love the beauty of things. I love the souls of 
things. Understand, Nick?" 

"Perfectly." 

She was silent again for a long time, until the cab 
took them out of the crowded London streets into 
the quieter suburbs, and presently into a road along- 
side a great open space where there was quietude and 
darkness. It was Clapham Common. 

Kitty put her hand through the trap and said 
"Stop!" 

"What are you going to do now?" asked Nick. 

"Let's walk about a bit." 

She jumped out of the cab, and after some words 
to the driver, who seemed anxious about the fare, 
took Nick's hand and walked on to the common, 
until they were beyond the light of the gas-lamps 
and in the shadow world of trees which loomed out 
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of the blackness. It was a warm night and the air 
was very stilL The sky was strewn with stars. 
They were reflected in the mirror of a pond as 
though they were floating there. 

"It is good to be here," said Kitty. "This is bet- 
ter than the theatre with its glare of lights, and 
stench of women's perfumes and scented hair. Pah ! 
The beastliness of civilized life ! The rottenness of 
it all r 

Suddenly she began to cry a little. 

"What's the matter?" said Nick. 

He felt horribly ill at ease. He had a sense of 
danger. Kitty's tears made her more dangerous to 
him than her swear-words. 

"I'm so beastly lonely!" she whimpered. "I feel 
always alone in the great desert of life." 

Then suddenly she came close to him, and put her 
arms about his neck, and her face so close to his 
face that her breath was warm upon his lips. 

"Nick, you've been a pal to me since I knew you. 
I love you, Nick. Can't we cut and run together? 
,We could be as happy as kids, you and I. I would 
teach you how to love. I would put my arms round 
you like this, and kiss you — like this !" 

She kissed him a dozen times, clasping him so 
tight that he could not struggle free from her. She 
clung to him, with a kind of desperate strength. 

He jerked his head back, and cried out: 
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"Don't! For Heaven's sake, don't! Are you 
mad, Kitty?" 

"Yes, as mad as a hatter. I am mad for your 
love, Nick, because you are such a boy and so good 
in your heart. You would make me less sick with 
the world. We could make a great game of life. 
Oh, my dear boy ! My pretty boy ! I want you so 
badly. Kiss me, Nick. Kiss me!" 

He managed to get his arms free from her clasp, 
roughly. He held her by the wrists, so that she 
could not cling to him. 

"This is horrible!" he said. "Behave yourself, 
can't you?" 

He spoke brutally, savage with her for this 
abandonment of self-respect. In the darkness she 
seemed to him witchlike. He could see the white- 
ness of her face, and her burning eyes. 

She was panting like a wild creature. 

"Don't be a prig, Nick. Be kind and human. 
Don't you understand ? You and I want each other. 
We are made for each other. I am your mate- 
woman. God made me your mate, Nick." 

She thrust her face forward again, and tried to 
cling to him again. Her lips were kissing the air. 
Her eyes had a greenish light, like cat's eyes. But 
he still held her wrists quite tightly, and kept her 
away. 

"Be quiet!" he said sharply. "Remember your 
decency. You are a married woman. I . . . '* 

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"A married woman? . . . That's a lie. 
. • Btirpham's beastliness made me free of 
him. ... I owe him no loyalty. . . . But 
I would be loyal to you, Nick, loyal to the death, 
in big things and little things. Surely you won't be 
angry with me because I am ready to give you all 
the best in me. All that is good in me would be 
yours. Axid if you like you can throw me away 
when you are tired of me. Chuck me away like an 
old boot I won't make you pledge yourself. When 
you are sick of me, I'll take the hint You can send 
me oflF with a nod and a That's enough !' But for 
a little while, Nick, for a few months, a few wedcs, 
we could be as happy as kittens. We would play 
at love together, and make beUeve, and I would be 
as good as gold." 

"Good?" said Nick. "Oh, Lord! You don't un- 
derstand the word. You speak like a vile creature. 
You . . . you make me shiver." 

"Do I?" she said. "Do I?" 

All the pleading in her voice changed to a sudden 
shrill rage, and she jerked her hands free from his 
grasp. 

"Why, you are like the rest of men, as cruel as 
devils. I thought you were kind." 

She laughed with hysteria in her voice. 

"Lord God ! I thought he was kind !" 

Nick was scared now. This scene in the dark- 
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ness of the lonely common was fantastic and hor- 
rible. 

"Let's go back," he said. "The cab is waiting for 
us." 

"Go back where?" asked Kitty. "Are you in such 
a hurry to go back to a mother who is playing the 
wanton with my man?" 

Nick cried out in a voice of horror, "Kitty !" 

"Oh, I won't spare you now," said Kitty. "I will 
tell you what I wanted to hide from you, because I 
thought it would hurt you. Hurt you? I want to 
hurt you. I shall laugh to hear you moan like a 
wounded thing when you know the truth. Haven't 
you guessed the truth about Beauty and Baby Bur- 
pham, about Beauty and Rosenbaum ? No, you were 
blinded with your virtuous conceit. You shut your 
eyes to the truth. That precious mother of yours I 
Beauty ! The mother you worship with your eyes. 
Why, she is rotten to the heart. Baby Burpham 
is her lover with Rosenbaum, the Jew. Don't you 
know that, poor innocent? Don't you know that 
she and Burpham, my baby-faced husband, are as 
guilty as two devils ? Oh, you groan. Because you 
know I tell the truth, and the truth hurts. But it is 
tit for tat. You hurt me, didn't you ? Called me a 
vile creature? Yes, but not so vile as that lady 
mother of yours, who sends us out together so that 
she may be alone with the man she belongs to. Go 
back to her now, and ask her whether I lie. She 
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will swear I lie, but you will see the guilt in her 
eyes. Why, I knew it months ago. I can give you 
dates and times. But I said nothing. I laughed. I 
taunted Baby with it, and laughed again. I laugh 
now. It is a rare joke, and I have a pretty sense 
of humor.*' 

She laughed in the darkness, and Nick shuddered 
at the sound of her witch-like laughter, so shrill and 
horrible. 

**You had better go back," he said, quietly. "I 
will take you to your cab." 

She walked a little way behind him, because he 
strode swiftly across the Common. He could hear 
the swish of her dress across the grass, the tinkle 
of her bracelets. On the edge of the Common the 
cab was waiting for them. 

"Get in," he said. 

She put her hand on his sleeve for a moment, and 
said: 

"I'm sorry that I told you the truth. You had to 
know." 

"Get in," he said. 

She climbed into the cab, and huddled hersdf into 
the comer. 

"We will go back," said Nick, "and I will ask you 
to say before my mother what you have said to me. 
If what you said was false, perhaps God, or some- 
thing, will teach me how to punish you." 
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He gave the address to the man, and took his seat 
in the cab. 

They drove back in silence. Kitty Burpham cried 
part of the way, and then was very still. Toward 
the end of the journey she spoke his name very softly 
in a pleading way, but he did not answer her. His 
face was as hard as though carved out of granite. 
As the cab rattled into the hotel courtyard Kitty 
spoke again. 

"It is the truth, Nick. I swear to God it is the 
truth. But I'm sorry." 

Big Ben struck twelve strokes as Nick fumbled 
in his pocket and paid the cabman. 

The door of Beauty's flat was opened by her maid. 
The girl seemed surprised to see the two visitors, 
though both of them had been to Beauty's rooms 
much later in the night. She stared at them curi- 
ously. 

"Your mother went out with his lordship," she 
said to Nick. "I packed some things for her. She 
wore her motor coat." 

She glanced toward Kitty and said : 

"His lordship was going for a midnight drive. I 
thought perhaps you knew." 

Kitty Burpham looked at Nick, but did not speak. 
He stared at his mother's maid in a dazed way, and 
as he said nothing, she resumed her monologue, 
standing quietly at the door. 
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BEAUTY AND NICK 

"I think there is a letter for you, sir. I saw it 
lying on the writing-table/' 

Nick strode through the door into the sitting- 
room. Kitty followed him. They were alone to- 
gether in this room, where the chairs were littered 
with illustrated papers, and sheets of music, just as 
they had left it. The stump of one of Burpham's 
cigars was lying on a silver ash-tray on a little table 
by the side of the fireplace. On the writing-table 
was the letter which the maid had seen. It was 
addressed to Nicholas Barton, Esquire, at the studio 
in the Fulham Road, but it was unstamped. 

Nicholas stared at it, and then opened it slowly. 

Kitty watched him from a little distance, like a 
woman fascinated by a poignant scene in some prob- 
lem drama, by some excellent piece of acting. 

The letter was not a long one. It contained just 
a few simple words. 

Dearest Nick : 

I have gone away with Burpham. I tried not to, 
but you know how weak I am. He would not wait 
any longer for me. I suppose the devil has some- 
thing to do with it. Of course, I hate myself, and I 
know you will think the worst of me. I was bom 
bad. If only I had been bom good ! You see, I blot 
this paper with my tears. Your father will say they 
are sham tears. But there is salt in them. 

Good-by, dearest Nick. ^^ i • 

•^' Your lovmg 

P.S.— Tell Kitty I'm sorry. Beauty. 

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Nicholas read the letter very slowly and then 
crumpled it in his hand. His face was deadly white, 
and a mist came before his eyes. Kitty, who was 
watching him, saw that he swayed a little, as though 
overcome with faintness. But he turned round to 
her, and held out the letter. 

"You told the truth," he said. "And you were 
right. It hurts. ... It hurts." 

The girl went down on her knees before him as 
he sat down heavily on the sofa, with his head droop- 
ing forward^ 

"Nick, dear Nick . . . You and I are to- 
gether in this. They have both chucked us. . . „ 
Oh, sweetheart, let us comfort each other. Let me 
stay with you and love you. We both want love so 
badly." 

She poured out a flood <of wild words, fondling his 
hands, clinging to him. 

For a little while he seemed quite unconscious of 
her. Indeed, he was utterly imconscious of her, 
thinking only of Beauty, who had left him again, 
who had twice abandoned him. 

Then he stood up very straight, and spoke in a 
quiet, hollow voice: 

"You are as vile as Beauty. You have the same 
kind of heart arid brain. You and my mother ! A 
pretty pair ! I don't know why such women as you 
are allowed to live." 

She still clung to his arm, but he thrust her off 
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viokndy, and strode out of the ixxxn, and oat into 
the passage. On his way to the door he had knocked 
over a little table, but was like a man Uind and deaf, 
so that he did not see or hear it falL In the streets 
of London and in the suburbs beyond he walked for 
hours, until the dawn came and then the day, and 
he staggered home to his studio half way through 
the morning, like a man who had traveled a kmg 
way with despair. 

Yet he was quite calm when he spoke to Comyns, 
who had finished breakfast and was lolling back in 
the cane arm-chair, reading the literary column of 
the Morning Post. 

Gnnyns was less calm. He seemed to shirk Nidc's 
eyes, and to be restless and ill at ease. He flung the 
paper down and paced up and down the room light- 
ing cigarettes, smoking them for a whiff or two, then 
flinging them into the fire-grate. 

**Any breakfast going?" asked Nick. He busied 
himself with the gas-stove, and boiled up the kettle, 
and made himself some tea. He was famished, and 
hunger and fatigue dulled the sharp edge of the pain 
which had throbbed into his brain through the night 
Now he felt strangely calm and self-composed, like 
a drugged man, dull about the head, with all his 
emotions blunted. 

Comyns stared at him once or twice when he was 
not looking, and made some random remarics which 
Nick answered shortly. Then he whistled a music- 
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hall melody over and over again, as he stood with his 
hands in his pockets staring out of the window. 
Finally he swung round on his heel abruptly and 
said: 

"Nick, old man, I think we shall have to dissolve 
partnership. I have been thinking things over, and 
I have decided not to go on with this art game. I 
shan't want this studio any more." 

Nick sliced off the top of his egg. 

*T thought you wouldn't stick to it. Going back 
to Grosvenor Square?" 

Comyns laughed rather nervously. 

'^En passant, perhaps. But I shall set up else- 
where, after I have squared the governor." 

"A new hobby?" asked Nick. 

He was really not curious. He was only wonder- 
ing where he could find a cheap studio for himself. 
He would have to get the cheapest place he could. 
Perhaps, after all, it would be good to live alone, 
without Jack Comyns, who was a time-waster. He 
would waste no more time. He would work early 
and late, to make up for lost time. During the 
night he had turned over a new leaf. After the wild 
grief and agony of the night, when his mother's be- 
trayal had shattered the world beneath his feet, he 
had become sane with the daylight. He had seen 
things then with a cold, white vision. He praised 
God that after his accusations of all womanhood, 
after his condemnation of his mother, arraigned be- 
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fore the judgment bar of bis conscience, after tbe 
sickness and loathing with which the thought of 
Kitty Burpham had made him spiritually ill, his 
faith in virtue, which had been shipwrecked, was 
saved by the memory of Joan« He clung to his ideal 
of Joan like a drowning man. He clung to his love 
for her as a saving grace in this wild storm of his 
souL And then he groped his way back to old 
ambitions and lighted again the old fires, which had 
burnt out in his heart He would work to win her. 
He would work as a man inspired by the hope of 
a great prize. He had failed to gain the gold medal, 
but, with the help of God, he would not fail to gain 
the heart of Joan, which was of purer gold. . . • 
Work, that would heal his wounds. Work, the great 
spiritual tonic! He would work to earn a liveli- 
hood by art There were men not much older than 
himself who were earning good money as designers, 
black-and-white men, newspaper artists. He would 
learn the tricks of their trade and force his way into 
the open market. With a little luck . . . 

It was then that he looked up at G>myns and 
said: 

"A new hobby?'' 

And it was then that he noticed a curious look 
of embarrassment on the face of Comyns, a shirking 
look in his eyes. 

His friend laughed again, and said, with a queer 
attempt at gaiety: 

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"It depends upon what you call a hobby. . . . 
Thei truth is — I think of settling down in my old 
age. I think of plunging into the adventure of 
matrimony." 

"Fact?" asked Nick. 

He was startled. He had not expected this reason 
for his friend's change of plans. Perhaps he was 
only "kidding." He was a great hand at leg-pulling. 

"Gospel fact." 

Nick was silent. He was casting about in his 
mind to think who the lady might be. It was not 
easy to guess. Comyns had played the gallant with 
so many girls — art-students, artists' models, bache- 
lor girls in Chelsea. 

"Who is she, old man?" 

Comyns gave him three guesses, and glanced at 
him out of the comers of his eyes, while Nick tried 
to guess and failed. 

Then Comyns uttered a remarkable monologue, 
with jerky sentences, unlike his usual fluent speech, 
and with strange hesitations and awkward pauses. 

"I meant to have kept it secret from you for some 
time. . . . But she said it would not be playing 
the straight game. . . . She made me promise 
to tell you. . . . The truth is I had no idea 
. we drifted into it. . . . It took us 
both by surprise. You know the way. A sudden 
awakening . . . all in a flash. . . . Two 
souls staring into each other, meeting, mingling, 
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with a tremendous shock. ... I didn't think 
I could feel like that I was carried dean off my 
feet . . . and it was only afterward I thought 
of yoUy and felt a cad, and got into a blue funk. 
. . . My dear old chap, we have been good pals. 
I should hate you to think badly of me. The for- 
tune of war, you know ... my luck. Your 
ill luck. ... If it had been the other way about 
I should have wnmg you by the hand and wished 
you all the best Nick, old man, it's like this . . . 
Joan and I " 

He did not finish his speech. Before he had got 
to the end of it Nick had risen to his feet There 
was a frightened look in his eyes. He seemed to be 
waiting breathlessly, like a man waiting for sen- 
tence of Ufe or death. When Comyns said "Jo^n 
and I" Nick staggered, as though struck by a heavy 
blow. He rais^ his arm, as though to guard his 
head from the blow, and then his hand dropped 
limply by his side. 

"Joan and you?" he said, in a hoarse whisper. 
"What do you mean? Joan and you?" 

"Joan and I love each other," said Comyns. And 
then, as though conscience-stricken by the sight of 
his friend's face, he said, "I'm sorry, old man. I'm 
frightfully sorry." 

The two men, both of them very young, stared at 
each other, searching each other's face. For a mo- 
ment it seemed as if some tremendous passion was 
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THE ROD OF FATE 

surging into Nick's face, as though Something was 
struggling up from his heart to clutch at his throat 
But he stood quite still, gripping the bade of a cane 
chair, and presently the flame faded out of his cheeks 
and the fire out of his eyes, leaving him tired- 
looking, dog-tired, and done. 

"It can't be helped," he said. "Nothing can be 
helped. One has to face it." 

A little while later Comyns left the studio, and 
when he had gone Nick sat at the table with the lit- 
ter of breakfast things about him, his arms folded 
across the plates, his head down on his arms. It 
was an hour later when he raised his head, an older 
man than when he had put it down, and listened to 
a knocking at the door. He took a deep breath, and 
went unsteadily across the floor, and opened the 
door. 

On the threshold stood two old friends — ^the 
Lonely Lady and the Merman. 

They stood there, hand in hand, smiling at him. 

Edward Frampton — ^the Merman — ^was so dis- 
guised that Nick hardly recognized him. He wore 
a glossy silk hat, and a black morning coat, and 
pepper and salt trousers over white spats and patent 
leather shoes. He looked ten years younger than 
when Nick had last seen him, and had keen, clear 
eyes, and a cheery air of self-confidence and 
strength. 

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BEAUTY AND NICK 

"Nick," he said, "I have brought my wife to see 
you. Have you a welcome for us?'' 

Edward Frampton's wife — the Lonely Lady — ^had 
her arms about him, and her eyes were radiant. 

"My poor Nick, you look like a ghost What has 
happened to you?" 

"Nothing," said Nick. "Nothing that matters." 

And yet when Frampton went away on some ex- 
cuse, leaving his wife behind, Nick had to confess 
that something had happened which mattered a good 
deal. 

"I have lost faith m life," he said. "I wish to 
God I were dead." 

He put his head into his hands, and wept. . . . 
After all, he was very young. 

And the woman who had been the wise woman of 
his boyhood, who had helped to form his character, 
and who had given him his first ambition, used all 
her wisdom now to help him. 

She did not ask to know his story, but she told 
him hers, and laid bare her heart to him, and con- 
fessed to him some of its agonies and some of its 
doubts, when she, too, had wished she was dead. 

"Do not lose faith in life, Nick," she said at last. 
"For hope is stronger when it is bom of despair, 
and faith more certain when it follows doubt, and 
success more precious when it has been taught by 
failure. . . . Look at me, Nick! I have won 
through after so many years of groping, so many 
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THE ROD OF FATE 

weaknesses, so many futile days. I have won a man 
out of the depths. Edward Frampton has escaped 
through me. He is my miracle. You understand? 
. . . Nick, my poor boy, you see it is too early 
for you to lose faith in life. Why, life is all in front 
of you, and there is your work to do." 

There was a long silence in the room, and then 
Nick looked up and took a deep, long breath. 

"Work," he said, "yes, thank God for that A 
man can always work." 



[383) 

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CHAPTER VI 

THE PLOT OF LIFE 

The little housemaid who was polishing the 
knocker of a house in RedclifFe Road did not know 
that Fate stood on the steps next door by the side 
of a young man who had hesitated outside the gate 
before he thrust it open. She saw only a good- 
looking young man, in shabby clothes and a dump 
hat, with a big sketch book under one arm and his 
right hand gripping a heavy portmanteau. She did 
not see that he was being watched by the vigilant 
eyes of eternal curiosity, that he was being touched 
by the invisible hands of a gijiding spirit, that he 
was the unconscious servant of a masterful force, 
which some men call Fate, and others Luck, and 
others — in humble moments — God. 

Nicholas Barton himself was unaware of the 
guiding hand upon his shoulder. He was aware 
only of a tragic depression of spirits, of a gray world, 
robbed of its sunlight, and of a duty to be paid The 
duty was to his father. He knew now how right his 
father had been, how terribly right. But he had 
abandoned this man, who had been his comrade, for 
the woman who had betrayed both of them. Now 
the least he could do was to return, to pick up the 
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THE PLOT OF LIFE 

old threads which had been broken by Beauty's hand, 
to say "Father, I have come back." 

Those words rose to his lips as he lifted the 
knocker. 

"Father, I have come back." 

He felt like the Prodigal Son. Yet he had eaten 
no swine's food. He had kept himself clean. Rather 
he was like a man who had gone forth from beneath 
his father's roof-tree in search of adventure, with 
high hopes, and a buoyant heart, and ideals glim- 
mering with a white light before him, but had been 
waylaid by enemies and had been beaten and bat- 
tered, and then had lost his way in a dark wood 
with no light at all to guide him, until he had strug- 
gled back, inglorious, bruised, shamefaced to his 
sire. 

The door was opened by Polly, and he spoke to 
her in a queer, jaunty tone, so that the sound of 
his own voice rang queerly in his ears. 

"Hulloh, Polly ... I have come back." 

She gave a little cry of joy, and clasped him in 
her arms. But a moment later she unclasped her 
arms, and raised her hands to her bosom and looked 
at him with a strange fear in her eyes. 

"Oh, Master Nick!" 

He was startled. He had known his old nurse's 

face since first he had seen any face, but he had 

never seen it so drawn with grief, and with such 

a sharp anxiety in the eyes. It seemed to him that 

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BEAUTY AND NICK 

she spoke to him of tragedy, though her words told 
him nothing. The abrupt way in which her little 
cry of joy at his home-coming changed into that 
lament of "Oh, Master Nick!" made his heart fall 
with a kind of thud. He stammered out a question. 

"The governor? Is he . . . ill?*' 

In his heart the question was: 

"Is he dying ... or dead?" 

Polly shut the hall door, and grasped him by the 
sleeve, and led him into the dining-room. She spoke 
incoherently, putting a trembling hand to her head, 
and thrusting her cap sideways. 

"I'm fair worried, Master Nick. Your poor dear 
Pa has been out all night, walking the streets, I 
expect. It's been the same these weeks past No 
sleep. Pacing up and down, up and down, in the 
bedroom, and now and then a groan like a wounded 
thing. Then out at night, and me scai-ed to death, 
and a look so sad to make any 'eart bleed, when 
he comes back before the milkman. But never so late 
before. It's ten o'clock, and he's not home yet — 
and all the bacon burned to a cinder, and my 'ead 
like an empty larder with a mouse running about 
inside. I have a fear gnawing in my 'ead like a 
mouse, Master Nick, if you can take what I mean." 

"A fear?" said Nick. 

He also had a fear. Those incoherent words of 
Polly's gave him a tragic picture of his father, of 

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THE PLOT OF LIFE 

his father's sleeplessness, of his lonely night walks, 
of his wretchedness. 

"Like a wounded thing," Polly had said, and 
Nicholas knew that Beauty and he had dealt the 
man his wounds. Beauty had stabbed first, Nick 
had driven the knife deeper in. 

"A fear?" asked Nick. 

Polly whispered to him : 

" 'E's a bit queer," she said. 

"Queer?" 

Nick spoke in a kind of hoarse whisper also. 

"Oh, Master Nick!" said Polly, " 'e's not the 
same man since he came to town, so glad to think 
'e would set up 'ouse with you again. He came 
'ome one day quite changed. There's a 'unted look 
in 'is eyes. 'E speaks to 'imself. After them lonely 
walks 'e comes back so moody and so broody, I 
could cry my 'eart out at the sight of 'im." 

Presently Polly left Nick alone. She had her 
work to do, she said, and somehow those words were 
a lesson to him. In spite of her fears and her 
troubles she "had her work to do." He heard her 
go into the kitchen and shut the door, and standing 
in his father's sitting-room, Nicholas Barton made 
use of the words spoken by his old nurse and his 
father's servant, and said : 

"I, too, have my work to do." 

He went to the window and stared into the street 
The little red-headed housemaid who had been pol- 

[387] 



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BEAUTY AND NICK 

ishing the knocker next door was now cleaning the 
steps. She was singing as she worked. A butcher's 
boy with a tray on his head was marching along the 
pavement, keeping step to a tune which he whistled 
with a blithe note. From the opposite house a man 
with a black coat and tall hat came out, waved up to 
the windows, and then strode off to his day's work, 
with a brisk pace. 

"Work!" thought Nick. "That's the saving 
grace." 

Then suddenly, as he stood at the window, star- 
ing out upon the street, he saw his father's face. 

Bristles came across the i"oad, slowly, with his 
head bent down as though his eyes were searching 
for something in the roadway. He hesitated out- 
side his iron gate, just as Nick had hesitated, went 
past it, seemed to falter uncertainly, came back again, 
and put his hand upon the gate and glanced up first 
at the bedroom window. 

It was in that moment when he glanced up that 
Nick seemed to feel an icy hand upon his heart. 
For his father's face was stamped with the imprint 
of tragedy. In his eyes there was a look of dull 
despair. It was a face like a mask of pain. And 
the tmcertainty with which he had hesitated before 
his own gate, this faltering, as though he were 
afraid to come home, this strange, furtive glance at 
the bedroom window, filled Nick with a horrible 
uneasiness. He stood quite still listening acutely 
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as a key turned in the lock of the front door. It 
turned very quietly, as though the man were afraid 
of being heard. The door was shut again with ex- 
traordinary quietude, as though by a thief in the 
night. Then Nick heard his father's footsteps pass- 
ing with a stealthy tread across the hall, like the 
steps of a man creeping on tip-toe. A moment later 
a stair creaked slightly. A door was opened on the 
landing above, and shut again almost noiselessly. 

The ceiling of the sitting-room shook a little with 
a heavy tread. Then silence. 

Nicholas Barton stood with his head raised, listen- 
ing. He listened as though his soul were in his 
ears. He did not like this silence. He hated it. It 
put a terror into his mind, the terror of some un- 
known horror. What was his father doing? Why 
didn't he walk about upstairs, open a drawer, make 
some kind of noise? Was he standing quite still 
there, in the bedroom, with that tragic face of his, 
with those despairing eyes? What was he doing? 
thinking, preparing to do? 

Nicholas Barton listened. He held his breath to 
listen. And in that moment some great Force 
seemed trying to draw him away from where he 
stood, motionless, in the centre of the carpet. Some- 
thing seemed to be calling to him, urging him to 
hurry out of the room to rush upstairs, to burst 
open the door of that bedroom where his father was 
so quiet. A tremendous impulse stirred in Nick's 
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BEAUTY AND NICK 

brain, like some enormous and passionate instinct. 
Swiftly he strode across the floor. Panting a little, 
he took the stairs three at a time. He was trem- 
bling in every limb when he grasped the handle of 
the bedroom door, turned it, and stood inside the 
room. 

Then he knew that the instinct had come from 
some CXitsider. He had been called in time. 

His father stood in front of a looking-glass. He 
held a blunt, black thing in his hand. He had raised 
it to his forehead when his son stood inside the 
room. 

"Father!" cried Nick. 

With that shout he strode across the room, gripped 
his father's shoulder, and swung him round. 

The blunt black thing fell out of his father's hand 
to the carpet and spoke with a terrible shock of 
sound. A brick in the wall crumbled, and fell on 
the carpet, with a little cloud of dust. 

Bristles stood very still. His eyes met his son's 
eyes, then drooped. A wave of color swept into 
his face, and then left him white. 

"I'm sorry," he said. 

Nicholas swung round and went to the door 
again. Polly was there. She had come scrambling 
up, anyhow, in a kind of heap. 

"It's all right, Polly. There's nothing the mat- 
ter." 

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THE PLOT OF LIFE 

He shut the door and locked it, and turned round 
again into the room. 

"Father!" he said. *'Good God! Not thatr 

Bristles sat down in the chair close to his dressing 
table. He was trembling a little. 

"You came just in time, Nick," he said. "In an- 
other moment " 

He gave a deep breath, like a man recovered 
from a trance, and the color ebbed back into his 
face again, and the glazed look passed from his 
eyes. 

"It was the hand of God," he said. 

The pistol still lay on the carpet, a spent force. 
There was no danger in it now. Nick was leaning 
against the wall, with his face in his hands. All 
his heart had broken into tears. 

Bristles went over to him and put his arm about 
him. 

"Old man," he said, "you have paid me back now 
for everything. Fm in your debt. I'm in God's 
debt. If my life is any good to you — I must make 
amends." 

"Father," said Nick, "I've come back. You and 
I are together again. We have both been smashed. 
Let's help each other to pick up the pieces, and go 
on. 

These two men, father and son, with the pistol on 
the floor between them, stood with God's eyes on 
them. Their souls were naked. They were like 
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BEAUTY AND NICK 

shipwrecked men on one plank. They spoke things 
which men do not speak, until they stand, as it 
were, on the lip of eternity. 

Hour after hour they spoke, and the father hid 
nothing from his son, nothing of all the agony of 
his despair, nothing of all the temptations of the 
devils in his brain, nothing of his cowardice. 

Twice he had been broken on the wheel of fate, 
by two women, and when one of them had robbed 
him of the son who had been the last straw by which 
he clung to life, he had thrown up his arms and gone 
under. 

Then Nick told his tale — z tale of disillusion, of 
failure, of horrible doubts, of broken hopes. He, too, 
had been twice smashed. 

Father and son looked into each other's souls. 
There was no gulf between them now. No ghost 
divided them. And sometimes one or the other gave 
a passionate cry against the cruelty of things. Some- 
times the boy flamed into anger against the mother 
who had borne him, against all women, against 
life itself. Sometimes the man spoke in a kind of 
strangled way at the remembrance of his agony, as 
though the black devils were at him again. But it 
was the boy's passionate grief, his bleeding woimds 
which gave the man new strength, which filled him 
with the spirit of fatherhood. For the boy's sake 
he must think clearly, speak bravely, get back to san- 
ity and self-respect. 

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THE PLOT OF LIFE 

"Nick!" he cried, "we have paid God's price for 
sin. My sin, old man, let me not hide that from 
you." 

"Your sin?" 

"My sin, partly. Lord God! I see now that it 
was half my fault. Perhaps more than half. Who 
can weigh these things in the scales ? Your mother 
was right Poor child-wife ! Let us be fair to her, 
Nick. Let us face the truth of things, now, with 
that thing lying there on the carpet. If I had been 
more patient with her I might have kept her straight, 
at the beginning, and so — at the end. If I had been 
more kind to her I might have called her back when 
she first went astray. I called her a liar to you. 
But I was a liar too, when I justified myself, when 
I fought for you. ^ I see now I was hard on her. 1 
see it all in a white light I was hard — hard — hard." 

Nicholas thought of his mother when she struck 
the deal table with the palms of her hands and said : 

"Hard! Hard! Hard!" 

"And at last," said his father, "I chose the Devil's 
way, which is called Divorce." 

He leaned forward and touched Nick on the hand. 

"When I divorced your mother, I obtained dam- 
ages from the man who had betrayed her. But who 
paid, do you think? Who pays — ^always, always? 
Good God! It is the child who pays. The man 
and the woman go their way separately, and forget, 
or stamp on the head of remembrance. They find 
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BEAUTY AND NICK 

new interests in life, stifle their conscience, and find 
new love. For good or evil, their characters have 
beca made. They do not alter much. They are 
the heirs of their own childhood. But how about 
the child who is just hegixming life, who needs both 
mother and father, who needs mother-love as well as 
father-love for the foundations of belief, for faith 
in the essentials of life, for guidance in the begin- 
ning of the journey ? You know, Nick, you know, 
old man. It is you who have paid the price — to the 
full— every brass farthing of it My poor old boy! 
How can I square up with you?" 

Now that Nick had paid in agony and tears, now 
that he had come back to his father with the gift 
of life, the older man was very humble, and in the 
presence of the Spirit which had drawn him back 
from the great precipice, when he had almost 
lurched into the depths, he made a vow to dedicate 
this new life which had been given to him to the 
boy, who had suffered for the sins of his b^etters. 

"Life is all in front of you, Nick," he said. "If 
you will let me I will try to pay back something 
of my debt, by comradeship, by a father's service, 
by the wisdom, perhaps, that has come to me out 
of my folly. And with you, with your friendship, 
Nick, old boy, I will grope my way back to youth, 
and get a little stock of new hope, and pick up my 
work again. Is it a bargain?" 

Father and son clasped hands on it 
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THE PLOT OF LIFE 

When they went out of the room arm in arm, 
Polly, who was standing at the foot of the stairs, 
heard her master's words : 

"Why, Nick," he said, "it will be quite like old 
times!'' 

"I must settle down to work," said Nick. "In the 
old style, eh, father?" 

But both of them had begun a new chapter in the 
plot called Life. 



THE END 



I '395] 

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